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Transitions going well for Knightstown police

Knightstown Police Chief Chris Newkirk discusses the new radio needs for his department during a committee meeting Monday night.

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

KNIGHTSTOWN — Transitions, both in terms of leadership and equipment, continue to go smoothly at the Knightstown Police Department.

Monday night, Chief Chris Newkirk, who has been on the job for just over six weeks, updated members of a Knightstown Town Council committee on progress with his department and the process of closing the dispatch center here.

Newkirk told town council members Landon Dean and Roger Hammer “morale is up” in the department and “officers are working harder.” He had the numbers to prove it.

In the last 30 days, Newkirk said:

• 60 incidents have been investigated, up 30 percent from January;

• 14 arrests have been made, up 72 percent from January; and

• 42 citations have been issued, up 45 percent from January.

Newkirk also reported a more aggressive approach is being used to relay information on the department’s Facebook page, which recently had 2,700 views in a two-day period.

“I just can’t emphasize enough what a good job you’re doing,” Dean told Newkirk.

Meanwhile, Knightstown officials continue preparations needed for closing its dispatch center and consolidating those efforts with the county, a decision made in February.

Newkirk said new radios have been ordered for police cars here that will enable better communication with the county.

“These radios will eliminate where we are having bad reception on our current 800 radios,” Newkirk said. “It will get us better reception. Marion County had loaned the town some of its radios until we get the equipment we need.”

Newkirk said he has urged the dispatchers who worked at Knightstown to turn in applications with the county, where both full and part-time positions are available.

While the dispatch center closing is difficult, Newkirk said it was the right thing to do. Dean, once a firm proponent of keeping the dispatch center, now agrees.

“I was one of the people who fought it, thinking we’d lose control,” Dean said, recalling when the county’s 911 system was created in 1991. “But I was wrong. The delay in sharing information with officers is so significant.”

Dean explained that currently, if Chief Newkirk pulls over a car with three people in it, his request for driver’s license and warrant checks go to the Knightstown dispatcher, who writes all of it down, then calls the dispatcher in New Castle and reads the information to them.

The New Castle person enters it into a computer, then reads the information discovered back to the Knightstown dispatcher, who then gives the officer information he originally requested.

“It’s such a delay,” Dean said, indicating it could add six or seven minutes to a call. “Now they will be talking directly to New Castle. There will be no delay. When they encouraged us to do that in 1991, we should have done it then.”

Hammer emphasized to the Knightstown dispatchers affected – three full-time and some part-time – the closing decision had nothing to do with their performance.

“This is not about the job they were doing,” he said. “They were all doing a great job. It’s just the system is broken.”

In other business, the committee:

• Discussed the need for reserve deputies. Anyone interested in becoming a reserve deputy for the Knightstown Police Department can go to the website www.knightstown.in and fill out an application.

• Praised the recent work of Bobby Lackey and Curtis Northern on behalf of the department.