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August 26, 2014 • Headlines

Dr. Harley Robinson checks out Carlos, a two-year-old cat that has made his home at the veterinary hospital.
In honor of the Osgood Library’s Centennial celebration, a tree was planted, donated by the Osgood Beautification League. This followed a history of the library presentation Saturday as the culmination of the year-long centennial celebration. |
Jane Link of Sunman and Kelly Blair of Osgood provided music at the Garden Party fundraiser Sunday evening
for the Ye Olde Central House in Napoleon.

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Community invited to ‘Honor’ film

A free film will be shown Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the Damm Theatre in Osgood for the community. Veterans are especially invited to see “Honor Flight, The Last Mission” as the documentary highlights the free honorary one day trip they are welcome to take to our nation’s capitol. Lila Neal of Neal’s Funeral Home is bringing the film to Osgood. She was moved by the inspirational story and feels it is a great way to say thank you to our veterans. World War II veterans or any others with terminal illnesses will have priority for the DC trip, the next one being in the spring. There will be representatives to answer questions and help fill out registration forms. Doors open at 5:30 and the 85 minute movie begins at 6:30.

Training, community relations in place
Police share perspective on Ferguson, Mo., unrest

Mary Mattingly

It’s not likely to see a situation like the Ferguson, Mo., scene unfold in Ripley County, but if it does, law enforcement is prepared. Protests and civil unrest occurred after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed 18 year old black man recently. The shooting escalated already tense relations with local police in Ferguson.

Sgt. Noel Houze, public information officer with the Versailles State Police post, said state police would call on their Tactical Intervention Platoon, which used to be called their riot team. They are the ones equipped with shields, masks, tear gas and special firearms and equipment to handle civil unrest.

Houze used to be on the team and recalled being utilized when Indiana University fired coach Bobby Knight. “We were activated. The kids or students went wild and we were trained to handle such crowds,” he said. About two years ago, he said the team was put on standby at the state Capitol in Indianapolis when lawmakers were debating the controversial Right to Work law. Many labor unions and others filled the halls and surrounding streets strongly voicing their opinion.
The Ferguson incidents brought to light what some have criticized as the militarization of America’s Main Streets, where the Pentagon has provided grants or equipment for local law enforcement. Armored vehicles, assault weapons and camouflage military type uniforms were seen nightly on the news as the Missouri National Guard were called in to help control the crowds.

According to Houze, the state’s SWAT team does have some military vehicles, used solely for specific threats. “It’s not something you’re going to see for a traffic stop,” Houze stressed. A Bearcat, as he called the armored vehicle, was utilized in a crime situation in Sellersburg a few years ago where a man broke into a house, killed a K-9, and threatened police. “It’s mainly to protect the officers, to reduce their exposure,” Houze said. Area grants help fund some local law enforcement entities in purchasing these types of equipment. Batesville city police did receive military supplies and patrol rifles but returned those. Nearby Jefferson County received a 13 foot, 700 pound armored vehicle in 2013 valued at $658,000, at no cost to the department. The year before they received six utility trucks. Marion County received 330 assault rifles and three grenade launchers for local law enforcement agencies.

Ripley County Sheriff Rodney Stratton, a retired state police officer, said at the county level, they are not trained in riot control like the state police. “We are not big enough to have a specialized team,” he said. They do have regular firearm training and procedures on when to draw a gun. They currently don’t have any military equipment. Their squad vehicles are equipped with video cameras. Batesville has two vehicles with cameras. State police do not have all vehicles equipped with it, but officers often purchase on their own a recording device attached to their uniform.

Many in the Ferguson community protested because the officer shot multiple rounds to an unarmed man in daylight. But as Stratton and Houze said, no one knows exactly what happened, the threat the man may have posed to the officer, and the decision made in split seconds. The investigation continues in Ferguson with a grand jury convening this week to determine if charges will be filed against the officer Michael Brown’s funeral was Monday.

Firing protocol

“We aim to shoot, to stop the threat, whether it be to yourself or a third party,” Stratton said. He wasn’t surprised at multiple rounds reported in Ferguson. As he and other officers are trained, he said, “He (the officer) discharges his weapon and re-evaluates. You may need to continue to stop the threat. You reassess.”

Houze said the same, ”We train to shoot at the biggest target, and that happens to be the torso. We don’t aim for the leg like you see in the old television westerns. The criteria is if I’m in danger or a third party is, we are authorize to use deadly force.”

In his 37-year career, Stratton never had to shoot anyone. “I had my gun out on several occasions and had a few close situations, but no, I’ve never had to shoot someone.” Nonetheless, everyday he walks out of his home to go to work, he subconsciously thinks about the possibility. “If not, you become complacent, and that leads you open to risk. Police work is a different type of job. You have to be prepared even if it is unlikely.”

Houze, also a veteran officer, said the same. “It’s more likely for a policeman to go through his or her career without ever shooting someone. The only time I fired it was to put down a deer hit by a car. I have had my weapon out, but it never came to that. And I’m glad.”

Reason for equipment

According to Houze, the use of military type weapons come from a North Hollywood shootout in 1997, where 2000 rounds of ammunition were shot by two robbers and police. Police went in with 9-mm pistols and had fewer weapons than the bullet proof vested bank robbers, who also had illegal automatic weapons that could penetrate vehicles and vests. Eleven police officers were injured, seven civilians and the two bank robbers died. Houze said, “All you can do is be prepared for it. It only takes one time.”

Houze brought up a point that citizens may not consider but officers do. “I make a traffic stop and I don’t know if the person has committed armed robbery, murder or what. He or she does know. But they don’t know that I’m just stopping them for a headlight out,” he said. Officers have thus been trained to approach the “routine” traffic stop with caution. “You never know what could happen, or who you are dealing with” Houze said. He mentioned that Timothy McVeigh, convicted of the Oklahoma bombing, was actually caught by way of a traffic stop for an expired license plate. “The innocent person will wonder why the officer is approaching with his hand on his holster. But that’s why. We approach the person with the worst case scenario, and exercise proper caution. But 99 times out of 100 you don’t take out your gun.“

Stan Holt, Batesville police chief, recalled stopping a suspicious vehicle 10 years ago in town, which then fled and a pursuit ended in Shelbyville with gunfire exchanged. A passenger in the car told Holt afterward that the driver said he was not going to prison again and pulled out his gun as the Batesville officers approached. The 17 hour stand-off at a convenience store ended in the suspect dying by his own gunshot.

In the Ferguson case, Michael Brown was suspected of robbing a store 30 minutes prior. The officer is said to not have known that, and stopped him to move off the street. However, if Brown had done something illegal, he may have felt threatened, wanting to flee. Evidence is being evaluated to determine what happened that caused the officer to shoot the teen.

Stratton mentioned that his cousin, the late state trooper Bill Raynor was killed by two Kentucky escapees in 1966 when he stopped them on the interstate near Greensburg. Another local state police officer was killed when he was struck by a vehicle on I-74 as he stopped to aid a motorist. “We lose more people (officers) from incidents like that than shootings,” Stratton said.

One issue that raises the antenna of today’s officers is the number of people on the street with mental health issues, he said. Indiana cut $24 million from the state mental health budget, Stratton said, adding, “And our jails are becoming our biggest mental health institution. That’s not a good thing.“

Holt said a key to keeping such issues at bay is a “good relationship with the community, and with local law enforcement, state and county.” Should some civil unrest occur, he would call upon both entities. “Fortunately, we have never had to deal with it, but it could happen anywhere and it’s also important to have highly trained officers.”
He added that’s why they train regularly for various scenarios.

Pick up this week's edition of the Osgood Journal for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Purr-fect advice for cat owners (tips from Dr. Harley Robinson, page 2)
• Police looking for missing cows (page 3)
• Fatality occurs at Jefferson Proving Ground (Regional Wrap-up, page 7)

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