Indiana town 560 hopes to hire full-time police for the first time in 10 years – WISH-TV | Indianapolis News | Indiana Weather

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Four Indiana towns have received U.S. Justice Department funding to add police officers to their communities.

The town of La Paz, Indiana, has had no official police force for 10 years. With its allowance, the Town Council hopes to pay a new cop in three years. About 560 people call the home town. Downtown includes a bank, a liquor store, and a Veterans Affairs post. There is no stop light on the main tow. A volunteer fire brigade and a constable guard the town. The town also has two police cars for its part-time employees.

Roger Ecker, a lifelong resident, is the chairman of the Town Council. “What I think is the biggest problem for most small towns is the cost of health insurance,” he said. Yes, I can pay, but health insurance costs keep going up,” Ecker said.

Ten years ago, the town had two dedicated policemen. Both cops have health insurance through their spouses, which has saved the town a ton of money. Health insurance costs about 30% of an officer’s gross salary, Ecker says. When officers retired, the Town Council had no choice but to cut the budget of their full-time police department.

La Paz is more than a two-hour drive north of downtown Indianapolis. The main road through town is Old US 31. The state government dropped the road a few years ago and rerouted US 31 east of town, and that changed everything.

“We lost a lot of that traffic, that we lost a lot of business, so it really hit our tax base and when that happened it really pushed We’re down where we can’t have a full-time employee anymore,” Ecker said.

Last week, the town received a $120,000 grant from the Department of Justice to pay the salary of a police officer. The news is big enough to put the sponsorship announcement – along with a welcome to News 8 for covering it – on a digital sign in the fire department’s front yard.

“Salary starts at $45,000, with two weeks off with health insurance,” says Ecker.

The town had to secure a fourth year of wages, which Ecker said would require some tightening of the belt around City Hall.

La Paz may be small, but it’s not immune to crime. In 2020, the crime rate spiked by 14% and traffic violations increased by 38% over the previous year. Heroin use has crept into town and led to property crimes. In 2020, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office made nearly 500 runs to town, and part-time La Paz police responded to eight calls. The belief around town is that when the police are present, people tend to behave better.

Vince Feitz, a longtime resident, said: “It would be nice to have a little presence here to make people less scared.

Feitz also said: “In the end, you know, maybe it’s an expense that people might not support, but you know, our future is our kids, and if we We don’t do anything to protect them from walking the streets, what do we have? We have nothing.”

The new police will have three square miles of town to patrol, and the support of the Town Council.

Council leader, Ecker, said “the new officer will find something different in La Paz than in the larger communities. I think they will find more respect and I think that goes a long way.”

The town council president also said he realizes that hiring a police officer is difficult right now, but if all goes well, the town hopes to have the first full-time police officer on the streets in the next 90 days. .

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