Crothersville Town Council approves adding fifth police officer

CROTHERSVILLE — This spring, two of Crothersville’s police officers will head to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield.

That will leave two other full-time officers and some reserve officers to patrol the town and respond to calls in the area.

Sometimes, they may have to travel elsewhere for a majority of the day to work on a case. Plus, if an officer calls for assistance, other agencies may not be able to help since they are busy or understaffed.

To make it through these circumstances, the department’s leaders recently asked the Crothersville Town Council about hiring a fifth full-time officer.

The council granted that wish, voting 4-0. Councilwoman Terry Richey was absent.

Assistant Chief Jonathon Tabor said on the days he works, he has the help of two reserve officers. When Officer Levi Caudill works, though, the reserves are working their full-time jobs and aren’t able to assist.

“For him, that’s dangerous. Even in a town like Crothersville, I wouldn’t want to be by myself,” Councilman Aaron Mays said.

Tabor said this past summer, he was in a house by himself with an armed and barricaded person for 14 minutes until county officers arrived to help.

“Fourteen minutes is a lot of time,” Tabor said.

He also said it used to be easier to call an outside agency for help with a call, but with more in-depth major cases, it doesn’t work that way anymore.

“I can call and say, ‘Call me if you need assistance, but we can’t take this case from you because we are overbooked as it is,’” Tabor said. “We’re not the only ones that are understaffed. Every other agency around is understaffed, so everybody’s plates are full.”

Tabor said he or Chief Matt Browning could be working a case dealing with children and have to spend an entire day in Bloomington, Madison or Indianapolis.

“That takes me out of this town, but I can’t give the case away. To make it work, we need the extra help,” Tabor said.

If they pass calls on to other agencies, Browning said people may think the Crothersville officers don’t want to do anything about the issue at hand.

“We like to work everything we can,” he said.

Browning said in 2021, Crothersville officers responded to 1,726 calls, and another 930 were taken by officers with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, bringing the total to 2,656. To compare, he said the Brownstown Police Department, which has eight officers and a higher population, had 2,626 calls last year.

The annual number of calls continues to increase, too. Browning said back in 2012, Crothersville only responded to around 600 calls.

Mays made a motion to approve hiring a fifth police officer, but then council Vice President Jamy Greathouse suggested setting an executive session so the council, Tabor and Browning could meet to ensure it’s within the town’s budget and the department is ready to start the hiring process.

Then it could be brought before the council at the March meeting to consider approval.

“We’ve had that conversation several times,” Greathouse said of adding a fifth officer. “The thing about it is it’s not an issue of knowing they need it. It’s an issue of how we go about it.”

A few years ago, the department had three officers and the council approved bumping it up to four with a goal of making it five at some point.

“The PD has come a long way with pay and staffing and equipment and all these kinds of things, but there’s a lot more to it than just saying, ‘Let’s hire,’” Greathouse said. “I agree 100% we need to hire. We could use another officer, there’s no doubt in my mind. I just want to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row to put another person on there like that.”

Clerk-Treasurer Danieta Foster said adding a fifth officer would require a resolution for an additional appropriation, but it’s within the town’s budget.

Browning said he has some applications on file, and Greathouse said Browning could start going through those while the council and Foster meet to make sure everything is lined up on their end.

Councilman Chad Wilson then seconded Mays’ motion, and it was passed.