(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Department is facing extra responsibilities and a lack of manpower.
At last week’s Sheriff’s Merit Commission meeting, an increase to the department’s workload was discussed. As of August 1, the Sheriff’s Department has assumed substantial policing responsibilities for the Purdue campus in Westville. The university has decided to suspend campus police services on overnights, weekends, and holidays. Sheriff’s Department patrols will have to pick up the slack.
According to Chief Deputy Ron Heeg, the university decided to pare back its policing for budgetary reasons. Even though Purdue is a state school, Heeg said the State Police have not stepped up to offer coverage, in part because they are also understaffed. Heeg said State Representative Jim Pressel has been working with Purdue to find a better solution.
In the meantime, calls for service increased 28 percent last month for the midnight shift. According to Heeg, such an increase is not unusual in the summer months, but taking on additional duties at PNW will only stretch the department’s resources thinner.
“It just shows you the situation that we’re in right now,” Heeg said. “It’s starting to become almost desperate [as far as] where we’re at, not just here in La Porte County but nationwide. Every department is struggling.” Heeg said La Porte County officers get recruiting calls and emails from other departments, near and far. Heeg gave the example of Phoenix, Arizona, which offers pay of $109,000 plus $10,000 for moving expenses. Heeg said departments are trying to recruit from each other because the next generation of prospective officers just isn’t emerging.
Heeg reported that two future officers are ready to start their academy training. Another is currently in field training. However, the department now has four positions to fill. Heeg said only two applications have been received, with the application deadline coming up on August 22.