Elkhart County Sheriff's Department

Ask the Sheriff

Ask-the-Sheriff column archive

Sheriff Bradley Rogers writes a column in the Goshen News addressing questions he is often asked as a sheriff. This column covers a variety of issues and topics related to law enforcement and the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department. The Elkhart County Sheriff's Department considers this an excellent resource and compiles these articles here for you to access. Therefore, if you missed an Ask-the-Sheriff piece in the Goshen News, wanted to read an article for the second time, or wished to share an article with a friend - you may find them here! 

Law Enforcement Accreditation 2017

Dear Sheriff:  I’ve been told that the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department is nationally accredited and went through a recent assessment of compliance to a large number of standards.  Can you explain what that means?

Answer:  Your Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department has been accredited by The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) since 1984.  Elkhart County was the first Sheriff’s Department in the nation to receive this honor under Sheriff Dick W. Bowman.  Every Sheriff since that time has continued the program to keep the department accredited and the standard high.

During the awards ceremony in Jacksonville, Florida, on November 18, 2017, the department received our tenth award for Accreditation, including the distinction of “Excellence” on this occasion.  The Excellence award is a symbolic incentive for agencies to employ CALEA standards that sets the benchmark for public safety professionalism. This award continues the ongoing honor of the Sheriff’s Department with the longest running continuous accreditation.  We are currently the only nationally accredited agency in Elkhart County and one of 18 police/sheriff departments in Indiana.

You might think that departments could keep the high professional standards without accreditation.  But I found this is not often the case.  Human nature is to take shortcuts and easily pass on reviewing or updating policies. Without adhering to the professional standards, departments are not inclined to move toward best practices.  The accreditation program has become the primary method for an agency to voluntarily demonstrate their commitment to excellence in law enforcement. The standards upon which the Law Enforcement Accreditation Program is based reflect the current thinking and experience of professional law enforcement practitioners and researchers.  

The accreditation process does not create a cookie-cutter philosophy.  The process allows for each agency to have their own vision, emphasis on critical issues (such as my support for the Constitution) and solutions to unique problems, in accordance with the size and type of agency and the community service expectations where the agency is located.

CALEA accreditation requires an agency to develop a comprehensive, well thought-out, uniform set of written directives and requires a preparedness program so an agency is ready to address natural or man-made unusual occurrences.  Accreditation is a means for developing or improving an agency’s relationship with the community, and strengthens an agency’s accountability, both within the agency and in the community, through standards that clearly define authority, performance, and responsibilities. Being accredited can limit an agency’s liability and risk exposure because it demonstrates standards for law enforcement have been met, as verified by a team of independent outside CALEA-trained assessors.

The accreditation process, the assessment of which only occurs every three years, is an ongoing process in the Sheriff’s office and throughout the department.  The public benefits from this ever-vigilant state of mind in the department, from cutting-edge and updated policies and procedures, to rigorous guidelines and review for use-of-force and pursuits, to dissemination of public information, to ensuring that personnel abide by hundreds of standards that keep your department focused, well-trained, and professional.

No Sheriff could do the task of accreditation alone.  My staff, including my command, supervisory and line staff, to my accreditation manager, Randy Cripe, a retired long time law enforcement officer himself, are the facilitators behind the scenes.  Their daily efforts and support for accreditation, guided by the Sheriff, is crucial for the success of this professional program.

As your Sheriff I will continue to lead and set the bar high on the standards and conduct for your Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. 

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

Duties of the Sheriff

Dear Sheriff:  I have heard that any other sheriff’s department personnel, other than the jail personnel, are not mandated by law; that only the keeping of the jail is necessary for the county to fund for the sheriff.  Thus, it could be suggested that the county could choose to not fund personnel such as patrol/detective division officers and other non-jail related personnel and allow the Indiana State Police to respond to and investigate calls for service.  Can you comment? 

Answer:  As long as I can remember, even in my childhood, the Sheriff’s department was always the first responding officers outside the municipal limits in Elkhart County.  In fact, when the 911 system was developed, it was always answered by the county’s 911 center, which used to be under control of the Sheriff’s office.  Today, the 911 Center is independent from the Sheriff’s office, but uses our local municipal police and sheriff’s department as the primary resources for police calls for service, including emergencies.

The Indiana State Police, although very well respected and of which the Sheriff and local police agencies have a very cordial and cooperative working relationship, do not have the personnel needed in Elkhart County to take all the calls that are generated and normally answered by the Sheriff’s Department. 

In 2016, the Sheriff’s Department had 71,438 calls for service.  2,845 of these calls were traffic crashes.  The patrol division is the first responding police officer outside the municipal limits in Elkhart County, which encompasses 50-60% of the county’s population.  These calls include the initial response to homicides, and the response and investigation of crimes against persons and property.  Other duties we provide are warrant service, school resource officers, ordinance violations, traffic law enforcement, crime prevention initiatives such as education and high visibility neighborhood patrols, special crime details and salvage title inspections. 

To push all of this on to the Indiana State Police is not reasonable or realistic.  The State Police has a superintendent who is appointed by the Governor and the state police serves at the pleasure of the Governor.  The State Police are often pulled from their assigned county to provide security and control at large functions such as the Indianapolis 500, Indiana State Fair, Brickyard 400 and other large events requiring a state police presence. 

The Sheriff, elected by the people of Elkhart County, is accountable to the people and is easily accessible via email, social media, and phone or often in person.  The Sheriff has a face with a name that the people can count on for accountability and responsiveness.

Indiana code 36-2-13-5 provides for the duties of a sheriff: 

“The sheriff shall:

  • arrest without process persons who commit an offense within the sheriff's view, take them before a court of the county having jurisdiction, and detain them in custody until the cause of the arrest has been investigated;
  • suppress breaches of the peace, calling the power of the county to the sheriff's aid if necessary;
  • pursue and jail felons;
  • execute all process directed to the sheriff by legal authority;
  • serve all process directed to the sheriff from a court or the county executive;
  • attend and preserve order in all courts of the county;
  • take care of the county jail and the prisoners there;
  • take photographs, fingerprints, and other identification data as the sheriff shall prescribe of persons taken into custody for felonies or misdemeanors…”
     

As you can see by the list above, the jail, although one of the largest tasks and liabilities for the Sheriff, is not the only mandate by law.  The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department is a full service organization by law and necessity and is dedicated to being your first responders to serve and protect.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

 

The Elkhart County Sheriff's Thompson Sub Machine Gun

Dear readers:  I’m going to take a break from the question/answer format to share with you a piece of Elkhart County Sheriff history which I recently discovered and I believe you will find very interesting. 

Recently I met a man (he prefers to remain anonymous for this column) from another state that told me that he owns a 1921 Model Thompson Sub Machine Gun (TSMG) and discovered that the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department was the first owner of this firearm.   

Being a bit skeptical, I wanted to see the evidence.  So he came to Elkhart County with the TSMG and shared with me the documentation he found.  He then allowed some of my staff members and I the privilege of firing this weapon.

This amazing gun is beautiful and in, what I would describe, nearly original condition.  As I fired the TSMG it was flawless and amazingly accurate in its operation, even in fully automatic mode.  The 50 round drum of .45 ACP caliber ammunition on fully automatic fire would empty the drum in about 5 seconds, devastating any target in its path. 

Interestingly, in a spirit of collaboration, serial number 4407 was one of three TSMGs shipped to Berman's Sporting Goods Store, Elkhart IN, on an order placed by the Elkhart Police department in the Spring of 1929.  The Police Department kept two of the guns, serial numbers 6509 and 6511, and were shipped May 17, 1929.  The third gun on that order, serial number 4407, went to the "Elkhart Co. Shrf. Dept, Goshen Ind." on June 10, 1929.

According to our records, Sheriff Glenn Banks, who became sheriff in 1928, would have bought this firearm in 1929, nearly ninety years ago and that firearm is still carefully preserved and cared for.

According to the original Colt records, the 1921 Thompson submachine gun with serial number 4407 was manufactured under the Colt license by Auto Ordnance, John Thompson’s company (of which the gun is named after).  My friend bought the gun 30 years ago.  Although we don’t quite know when the Sheriff’s Department sold the firearm, it had to have been prior to 1987.

There were exactly 15,000 Model 1921 TSMGs manufactured by Colt in 1921 and 1922. Since these guns were new and sitting on the shelf when purchased in 1929, it appears that sales of the TSMG were not brisk.  However, what was happening in this era could shed light on the timing of these local purchases. 

The United States was in the middle of Prohibition and organized crime with gangsters Al Capone and Bugs Moran were in full action. In fact, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred in Chicago on February 14, 1929, using the TSMG by Al Capone and his men to murder their victims.  Certainly, when the Elkhart City police and the Elkhart County Sheriff purchased these TSMGs, this event in Chicago, just a few months prior, had to be in the forefront of their minds.   

Some large city departments list many guns purchased but most of the hundreds of the law enforcement purchases were for a single TSMG per department.  This is not surprising as it was a significant expense in the 1920’s.  One TSMG with a 50 round drum was $225, most of the price of a new model T Ford sedan at that time.  Today, the gun previously owned by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s department is worth at least $50,000.

Some interesting listings in the Colt records for sales to civilians are Henry Ford, Dearborn, MI with serial numbers 4005 and 7253  and serial numbers 3554 and 8946 are listed as owned by John Dillinger.  Prior to the National Firearms Act of 1934, anyone could walk into a sporting goods store and buy an automatic like the TSMG with no restrictions and no questions asked!        

Thanks to my new friend for the opportunity to share this bit of history, and bringing this TSMG home for a visit with the current Sheriff of Elkhart County and giving me the opportunity to share this history with you.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

Photo Information:

All photos submitted by Sheriff Brad Rogers and used with permission

Photo 1 (Capt. Mike Culp, patrol commander, fires the TSMG recently at the sheriff’s firearms range)
Photo 2 (Circa 1937-38, the TSMG can be seen in front of the car on the far right with what is believed to Sheriff Edward Bourke in the middle)
Photo 3: Side view of the TSMG previously owned by the Elkhart County Sheriff Department.
Photo 4: Up close photo of the Model 1921 TSMG with the serial number of 4407 displayed.
Photo 5: Sheriff Brad Rogers holding the 1921 TSMG previously owned by the Elkhart County Sheriff.

 

Home Improvement Fraud

Dear Sheriff:  Is there a law pertaining to those contractors who fraudulently provide services to the public for home renovations or repair?  I’ve heard the police won’t help in these instances.

Answer: As our economy is steadily improving, so is home improvement fraud.  The offenders in these cases have plenty of experience and know how to manipulate the system and those they prey upon. 

In the past, these disputes were viewed as a civil issue and not criminal.  In other words, you hired them; so any issue you had with the contractor was a civil issue and you must sue them in small claims court if you could not resolve.  It was not a criminal matter from the law’s perspective, and therefore police are accustomed to suggest the small claims court remedy.

But, the state legislature realized the trouble this was causing for citizens and created a criminal law to protect consumers from such fraudulent activity.  It’s possible not all police officers know this if they have not been receiving legislative updates. The victims of these crimes typically do not know what to do and look to the police for assistance.  We can now investigate these activities as a criminal matter. 

So, let’s look at the criminal law of Home Improvement Fraud: A home improvement supplier who enters into a home improvement contract and knowingly:

  • Misrepresents a material fact relating to: the terms of the home improvement contract; or a preexisting or existing condition of any part of the property involved, including a misrepresentation concerning the threat of: fire; or structural damage; if the property is not repaired; or
  • Creates or confirms a consumer's impression that is false and that the home improvement supplier does not believe to be true; or
  • Promises performance that the home improvement supplier does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed; or
  • Uses or employs any deception, false pretense, or false promise to cause a consumer to enter into a home improvement contract; or
  • Enters into an unconscionable home improvement contract with a home improvement contract price of four thousand dollars ($4,000) or more, but less than seven thousand dollars ($7,000); or
  • Misrepresents or conceals the home improvement supplier's: real name, business name; physical or mailing business address; or telephone number; or
  • Upon request by the consumer, fails to provide the consumer with any copy of a written warranty or guarantee that states: the length of the warranty or guarantee; the home improvement that is covered by the warranty or guarantee; or how the consumer could make a claim for a repair under the warranty or guarantee; or
  • Uses a product in a home improvement that has been diluted, modified, or altered in a manner that would void the manufacturer's warranty of the product without disclosing to the consumer the reasons for the dilution, modification, or alteration and that the manufacturer's warranty may be compromised; or
  • Falsely claims to a consumer that the home improvement supplier: was referred to the consumer by a contractor who previously worked for the consumer; is licensed, certified, or insured; or has obtained all necessary permits or licenses before starting a home improvement, commits home improvement fraud, a Class B misdemeanor.  However, the higher the monetary loss for the consumer, the law allows for higher penalties.   
  • A home improvement supplier who, with the intent to enter into a home improvement contract, knowingly: damages the property of a consumer; does work on the property of a consumer without the consumer's prior authorization; misrepresents that the supplier or another person is an employee or agent of the federal government, the state, a political subdivision of the state, or any other governmental agency or entity; or misrepresents that the supplier or another person is an employee or agent of any public or private utility, commits a Class A misdemeanor. However, the higher the monetary loss for the consumer, the law allows for higher penalties.  

 (Source: Indiana Code 35-43-6-12 Home improvement fraud)

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

 

 

 

Annual Statistics-2016 Part 2

Dear Sheriff:  Can you give some interesting Sheriff's department statistics from 2016?

Answer:  In my last column, I wrote about a variety of intriguing stats from 2016. In part 2, I continue with more interesting facts not well known by the public.

The Sheriff's department processes applications for Indiana state handgun licenses for those who reside in Elkhart County and outside the municipal limits.  In 2016, a total of 1,843 applications were processed.  This was an increase in handgun license applications from 2015 when 1,259 total applications were processed. 

The busiest month for 2016 was December with 298 total handgun license applications.  Interestingly, this month coincides with the presidential election and finalization of the Electoral College results.

After approval by the Sheriff, which happens unless the person lied on their application about a criminal history, or they are a felon, clearly a substance abuser, or a person with serious mental health issues, the paperwork is sent to the Indiana State Police for final approval and issuance of the license. 

Paperwork generated by the courts need to be served by the Sheriff's Department process servers on business days.  In 2016, the process servers served 33,995 papers for the courts.  With about 250 business days per year, that equates to about 136 papers served each day.

Superior V court (Judge Wicks) in Elkhart had the most papers with 6,395 and the next highest was Superior VI court (Judge Bonfiglio) in Elkhart which had 5,439 papers.  The court with the least amount of papers to be served was Superior III court (Judge Cataldo) in Goshen with 752 papers.  The difference in the courts and their numbers is affected by the cases assigned, including civil actions, which typically generates the most papers. 

The jail ministry program is probably the largest of any jail in Indiana.  Led by Chaplain Cory Martin, the jail ministry program has nearly 500 ministry volunteers approved to minister to inmates.  The various programs in the ministry include bible studies, church services, one-on-one spiritual counseling and the inmate reading library. 

On average in 2016, there were approximately 440 ministry volunteers in the facility per month.  Of those volunteers, 12 worked a total of 641 hours in the library.  There was an average of 100 or more church services per month facilitated by volunteers.

The county correctional facility had an average of 782 inmates throughout 2016.  The monthly average booking count for 2016 was 635 inmates with a total of 7,625 inmates booked and 7,459 inmates were released for the year. Of the admissions for 2016, 1,521 were female and 6,096 were male.  Several inmates claimed to be of a different gender than their biology and were housed to protect them from being victimized.  

The correctional complex served 856,290 meals in 2016, with nearly 2400 meals made and served each day.  This includes kosher meals and medical diets as required. 

As the Elkhart County 4-H Fair starts today, I wanted to share some statistics from last year's fair. During the nine days of the Fair, the Sheriff's Department is in charge of security for the midway and events.  Last year we had the following calls handled by officers:  Lost children/adults-15, medical calls-9, lost/found property-2, vehicle crashes-2, theft-1, warrants-1, possession of marijuana-3, drug paraphernalia-1, juvenile tobacco citations-11, no-trespass warnings issued-2, vehicle lockouts-2, explosive ordnance disposal-1 (check an unattended suitcase left in the historical room). 

The Sheriff's department spent $50,306 for the Fair's security.  All in all, the 4-H Fair has been a safe venue for families to visit.  The Sheriff's Department will continue to set the positive tone for the Fair to allow all people to be safe and have fun. 

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

Annual Statistics-2016

Dear Sheriff:  Can you give some interesting Sheriff’s department statistics from 2016?

Answer:  A lot has changed since 1830 when the first Sheriff, Eli Penwell, was elected and needed to furnish his own gun, horse and had no jail.  There have been a total of 44 sheriffs since that time.

In 1980, the Census Bureau states that the population of Elkhart County was 137,330.  In 2016, the Census Bureau estimated the population to be 205,500, with approximately 51% of the population in the county living outside any municipal limits.

As the population grew, so did the amount of calls for service for patrol officers.  In 1980, calls for service totaled 20,540.  In 1990, calls for service were 29,108.  And in 2016 total calls for service were 71,438.  This equates to approximately a 347% increase in calls for service from 1980 to 2016!

There were 58 police officers on the Sheriff’s department (also known as merit officers) in 1980, 58 in 1990, 67 in 2000 and 70 in 2016. 

The sale of foreclosed properties are the responsibility of the Sheriff. They are called Sheriff sales and have an auction-type format. In 2016, the average number of properties set in the monthly auction was 32 homes.  There were 384 homes set to be sold for 2016.  This is a decrease from 540 sold in 2015. 

The good news is, due to the improving economy, the average number of sales per month has been declining from 88 in 2013, to 48 in 2014 and 45 in 2015. 

The Sheriff’s office processes applications for handgun licenses for those who reside in Elkhart County outside municipal limits.  In 2016, a total of 1,843 applications were processed.  This was an increase from the 1,259 processed in 2015.  The busiest month for 2016 was December, with 298 total applications.  Of the total for 2016, most were lifetime applications (1695) as opposed to the four year license (148). 

Reserve officers, highly trained volunteers that are sworn police officers, augment the staffing for regular shifts and special events.  The Sheriff’s Reserves contributed 4,690 hours of voluntary service to the community.  They offer their services in the areas of the dive team, as field training officers, patrol and at the 4-H Fair. 

Three Sheriff’s Reserve officers utilized the one motorcycle owned by the department, logging 859 hours of service last year with special events and patrol.

In 2016, there were 7,820 traffic citations and 4,042 warnings issued, showing that more than half the traffic stops result in warnings. My deputies are not citation-driven and are showing great discretion in providing warnings on less serious violations. 

There is currently one detective who actively manages the sex offender registry.   At the end of 2016, the registry consisted of 522 active registrants, which is an increase from the 2015 total of 495 registrants.

For the Sheriff, the medical liability in the jail is typically greater than all other aspects of the job.  Here are a few stats from 2016: There were a total of 3,603 on-site physician visits and 3,059 physicals completed (required by medical standards). The mental health services completed 4,250 inmate counselor visits, 881 psychiatric visits, and 2,163 mental health screenings.

Of the inmate population for 2016, 28 were HIV positive, 14 had a sexually transmitted disease and 683 started detoxification for drugs or alcohol.  Of the inmate population, 68% of the inmate population were on prescription medications and approximately 28% were on psychotropic medications.

There were 82 emergency room visits, 25 hospital admits, and 2 psych admits for inmates.  An on-site dentist had 800 total inmate checkups, which included 136 fillings and 299 extractions. 

The police chaplain corps (not to be confused with the jail chaplain or volunteer chaplains in the jail) is comprised of professionals who are trained to help officers as well as victims in the area of critical emergency situations.  In 2016, the chaplain corps provided 122 hours of volunteer service with 19 call-outs.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

 

The Life of a K-9 Officer

Dear Sheriff:  Can you explain what it’s like to be a K-9 officer?

Answer:  Yes!  I have asked Sheriff’s Deputy Ptl. Justin Yoder, one of my newest K-9 officers, to assist me with today’s column. 

The Elkhart County Sheriff currently has a total of 6 police canines (K-9s); 3 on patrol and 3 in corrections.  As funds are available, additional K-9s would like to be added.

A K-9 officer’s duties are those of a general police officer, except I carry out those tasks with a highly trained dog.  I’ve spoken to young people who wish to be a K-9 officer upon being hired on the department.  But it is important that you know the fundamentals of being a police officer first by developing valuable experience. 

My K-9 not only patrols with me but he also lives at my residence.  The K-9 knows the difference when it is time to be serious at work and when they can be a social pet at home.  My police dog has become one of the family, forming a bond with all my family members.  After the K-9 retires, which is anywhere from 5-8 years for health reasons, they become a full time pet at the handler’s home. 

My K-9 helps protect me.  I can remotely open the police car door to allow the K-9 to exit and help me.  My police dog assists me in situations where I need help on traffic stops or other calls, where there may be drugs in a stopped vehicle, in apprehending fleeing suspects, in helping track suspects or lost persons, and for securing the perimeter of a building where a warrant may be served. 

The K-9 officer’s responsibilities go beyond shift hours. The handler must care for the police dog, including ensuring the dog has enough exercise, is cared for if the family goes on vacation, and has everything he needs to live a healthy life.

The process of becoming a K-9 officer involves a lot of hard work.  Future handlers are expected to attend weekly trainings so they can help out and learn the aspects of being a K-9 officer.  Handlers are chosen by the Sheriff on the basis of commitment, dedication, good character and temperament. 

Once you become a handler, training never stops.  I work the dog on obedience every day.  Then frequent training on sniffing drugs, tracking, article searching, or aggression work.  I use other officers on shift to help me train. 

K-9 officers train 2 hours a week with other K-9 officers, and then a full 8 hour day once a month.  The trainings are conducted by local officers who are master trainers from the International Police Work Dog Association. 

Most police dogs are the German Shepherd breed.  However, agencies use different breeds depending on personal preference and what they will be used for.  I have a cross breed of a German shepherd and a Belgian Malinois.  His name is Stone and he’s from Czechoslovakia, being imported only 3 months ago.

Training for Stone was 6 weeks in length.   Prior to going on patrol with Stone, he and I trained 5 days a week and worked on different areas each day.  The key foundation to a good police dog is working on obedience every day, as the standard is high that the dog needs to immediately obey commands, or they are unacceptable for police work. 

The Sheriff’s K-9 unit is not budgeted through tax dollars.  Rather, it’s currently operated through the generous donations from local businesses and individuals.  The Sheriff uses all the donations to buy the police dog, training, supplies such as leashes, harnesses, kennels, veterinary costs, toy balls, food, etc. 

The purchase amount for one K-9 and associated expenses is typically around $10,000. If anyone is desiring to donate to the Sheriff’s K-9 fund, please email the Sheriff. 

Special thanks to Ptl. Justin Yoder for his assistance in this column. 

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

 

All about Seat Belts

Dear Sheriff:  I have a sunburn and it hurts to have the harness of my seat belt over my shoulder.  Is it ok to put the shoulder harness under my arm for comfort?

Answer:  Officers see this all the time.  It’s not only unsafe, but also technically illegal, as you are not wearing the seat belt as intended by the manufacturer. 

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, a study was completed and concluded: “Underarm use of shoulder belts is a means of relieving neck irritation and other complaints from shoulder belts but may result in serious or fatal injuries.” 

The report continues that the lower chest and upper abdomen cannot take the type of weight and source of pressure during a collision that are affected by placing the shoulder harness under the arm. The report cites, “Six recent cases…in which a fatal injury was caused by underarm use of shoulder belts. Lacerations of the liver, spleen, intestines, diaphragm, and aorta, and spine injury have occurred in accidents, most of which should have been survivable.

The motoring public must be warned that underarm use of shoulder belts is hazardous and may cause fatal injuries in otherwise survivable accidents.”


Dear Sheriff:  Since my vehicle has airbags, is it necessary to wear a seat belt?

Answer:  Yes.  Air bags, when activated, deploy out of their storage area of the steering wheel, dash, ceiling or door posts, at an incredible speed of 200 miles an hour.  If you got in the way of this air bag while it was deploying your injuries may be serious just from the airbag itself. 

Seat belts will keep your body positioned correctly so that you will not be in the way of the air bag as it is deployed, and allow the air bag to protect you as intended. According to the National Safety Council, Air bags help reduce injuries in crashes, but only when used with seat belts.  So, don’t just count on your air bag, use your seat belt for optimal safety. 


Dear Sheriff:  I always wear my seat belt when driving/riding in a vehicle.  However, I have problems getting my passengers to always buckle up.  I know the law says they should buckle up, but how can I use reason to argue that they should buckle up?

Answer:  Seat belts on your occupants will keep them in place during a collision.  If your occupants are not belted in, then they will come flying, possibly in your direction, potentially causing serious injury to you or keeping you from maintaining control of the vehicle.  Insist that your passengers buckle up; for their safety but primarily for your safety. 


Dear Sheriff:  I transport many children in my mini-van.  Sometimes I have too many children for the number of seatbelts.  Is it ok to place two small children in the same seat belt/harness?

Answer:  No!  With cutbacks on school bus routes in some districts and the increase of carpooling, some adults are placing more than one child in one seat belt/harness.  This practice reveals the parents do not understand the physics of what occurs in a collision. 

If two children were in the same seat belt, during the collision, both children will be competing for the same space.  This means that both children will have pressures on their body that were not designed by the safety belt/harness manufacturer.  Both children will “collide” with each other, and their injuries may be more severe due to the coupling of both in one seat belt. 

49 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring people riding in passenger vehicles to wear seat belts. Only New Hampshire lacks a seat belt law. More than 90 percent of Americans wear seat belts, and the few who don’t are vulnerable. More than half of vehicle occupants killed in 2012 were not wearing one (Injury Facts 2015).

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com

 

 

The Grand Jury, Part 2

Dear Sheriff:  Can you explain how the grand jury works?

Answer:  I continue with part two of the Grand Jury process.  If you missed part one, you can read it by going here, or selecting the acticle below. 

The grand jury can be used to determine whether there is probable cause that someone committed a crime, instead of a typical preliminary hearing before a criminal trial and usually involves high profile cases.  A grand jury is not always necessary and, absent a grand jury, the decision to charge can be made by the prosecutor.

The grand jury is the exclusive judge of the facts with respect to any matter before it.  The grand jury empaneled would be called in session when requested by the judge or prosecutor, but for not more than 6 months unless extended by a judge.  The law allows for special circumstances on extending the time someone will serve in a grand jury.

After a grand jury has been selected, the court will appoint one of the grand jurors as a foreman and one juror as a clerk.  In Elkhart County, and for practical reasons, the court often provides a court reporter to record the proceedings and ease the burden of a clerk. 

All proceedings will be recorded or documented except for the deliberations and voting of the grand jury and other discussions when the members of the grand jury are the only persons present in the grand jury room.

The grand jury has subpoena authority allowing the grand jury to compel witnesses to testify before the grand jury.  If the subpoena is issued to a target, the subpoena will inform the target he/she is the subject of the grand jury investigation, they may consult an attorney and to have the attorney present during grand jury proceedings, or if they cannot afford an attorney the court empaneling the grand jury will appoint one. 

Witnesses failing to appear before a grand jury may be held in contempt of court unless the subpoena is quashed (canceled) through a legal challenge.

Except when required to do so by law, a person who has been present at a grand jury proceeding and who knowingly or intentionally discloses any evidence or testimony given or produced, what a grand juror said, or the vote of any grand juror to any other person except to a person who was also present or entitled to be present at the proceeding or to the prosecuting attorney, commits a Class B Misdemeanor.   

The Grand Jury has the responsibility to ask all questions and seek all additional witnesses that they believe may have evidence relevant for their consideration.  The secrecy is provided to give the grand jurors, and witnesses, total license to explore matters they deem appropriate, without fear of public scrutiny or retribution, for disclosure of personal and private matters.  In some circumstances, this enables more informed decisions for both the grand jury, and the prosecuting attorney.

Many citizens seem to want to “get out of” jury duty, whether a grand jury or regular trial jury.  But keep in mind that one day you might want a jury of your peers that will be objective, intelligent, and really believe in the concept of juries that empower the people to be involved in this process and be the ultimate judge of the situation. 

What type of person would you want on your jury, one who takes the situation seriously or who is merely focused on getting dismissed and get back to their day-to-day activities?

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers.

The Grand Jury, Part 1

Dear Sheriff:  Recently an adjacent county’s sheriff was indicted by a grand jury and a local city department’s officers involved in a police shooting were called before a grand jury.  But, very little information is known about the process of the grand jury.  Can you explain how the grand jury works?

Answer:  In this two-part column, I will explain the process of what a grand jury is, how many people are on the grand jury, what a quorum is, what it takes to get an indictment, what a “target” is, and the secret side of the grand jury proceedings.  

The grand jury, for many people is one of those mystical and little-known activities of government.  Most of this perception is due to the secrecy of the actual proceedings to those outside the process.  Only information released by the government is allowed and that is typically done by the prosecutor.

Indiana code 35-34-2 deals with the grand jury process.  I will use this law to explain the process. There is a difference between a federal and state grand jury.  This column will focus on the state grand jury.

A grand jury hears and examines evidence concerning crimes, can call and ask questions of witnesses, and take action with respect to the evidence as provided by law.  Only the grand jury will be present during deliberations and voting. 

The word “Target” refers to the targeted person(s) who has been charged by information for an offense or who is a subject of the grand jury investigation.  If a target is required to testify, then immunity can be provided.  Otherwise, the right against self-incrimination still applies. 

A grand jury consists of six grand jurors and one alternate. The alternate juror will appear and hear all evidence presented to the grand jury but can only comment, deliberate or vote when there is not a quorum present. 

A quorum is considered at least five jurors.  At least five jurors must vote, and the prosecutor agrees, before an indictment is issued to the target.

Keep in mind an indictment does not mean the target is guilty of a crime.  Rather, it means there is enough evidence or probable cause to believe the person may have committed the crime and can be held for that crime.  A trial would later commence with a separate jury in which the burden of proof for guilt is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The following oath must be administered to the grand jury which punctuates the secrecy of the proceedings:  “You, and each of you, do solemnly swear or affirm that you will diligently inquire and make true presentment of all offenses committed or triable within this county, of which you have or can obtain legal evidence; that you will present no person through malice, hatred, ill will, nor leave any unpresented through fear, favor, or affections, or for any reward, or the promise or hope thereof, but in all your indictments you will present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; that you will not disclose any evidence given or proceeding had before the grand jury; that you will keep secret whatever you or any other grand juror may have said or in what manner you or any grand juror may have voted on matter before the grand jury.” (IC 35-34-2-3)

Typically the prosecutor and the person recording the proceeding are only present with the jury, along with any called witnesses.  If a witness is called that is in custody of a public servant, the public servant may be present only after an oath of secrecy is provided to the public servant.  Likewise a target and the attorney for the target take a similar oath of secrecy. 

In my next column, I will continue with part two of the Grand Jury process. 

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers 

 

Your child wants to go into Law Enforcement

Dear Sheriff:  My child wants to go into law enforcement.  What educational path would you recommend?  What other advice would you give a young person desiring to go in to law enforcement?

Answer:  My earliest recollection of desiring to go into law enforcement, and seriously considering my educational goals, was in the 8th grade.  That’s not too soon for any parent with a child desiring to enter law enforcement to encourage them to choose certain paths.

Choosing your high school courses wisely to prepare you for college or the law enforcement career is important.  College level math, speech and drama (to prepare for speaking in front of large groups of people), English (spelling, grammar and sentence structure), Sociology, Psychology and Civics or Government are important for the student to take seriously in this career path.

Choose a college with a Criminal Justice degree, two or four year, that won’t break the bank.  Police officers don’t make a lot of money that will facilitate paying back large student loans.  Most agencies will not care about the name of the college; they just want to see the degree.

Here’s the problem:  Just because you have a college degree in Criminal Justice does not mean you will get a career in law enforcement or that you will be a good police officer.  I’ve witnessed that a college degree, in itself, does not make a good police officer.  There are many other variables in the hiring process that must be considered.

For example, you might have a college degree, but you don’t have the personality or the good character qualities that are needed to be a good and effective police officer.  You need to be compassionate, kind, trustworthy and courteous, while having initiative, courage and the ability to communicate effectively, both in writing and verbally. 

Years ago I remember interviewing an applicant trying for patrol officer and he had smoked marijuana in his senior year of college, which was a couple of months before the interview. Knowing this is illegal the student should have known better and may have sealed his own fate, at least for a year or more. 

Some law enforcement agencies now require a 2 or 4 year college degree.  The Sheriff’s department used to require a 2-year degree.  However, as sheriff, I still prefer a college degree, but will hire applicants that do not have the degree if they meet the other high standards. 

Why would I make such a decision?  Because, we were not attracting enough qualified applicants.  I needed to consider those with military experience, those who started in Corrections, and those who were well-rounded in their experiences and with good character. 

So, here is my recommendation if your child is considering a career in law enforcement:  Since they won’t be 21 years old (a requirement to be a police officer) upon high school graduation, consider having your child begin an associate’s degree program in criminal justice or get hired in Corrections at age 18.  Then later, if they get hired as a police officer, larger departments typically allow for some type of educational reimbursement in the field of criminal justice, allowing the officer to work toward their degree. 

More importantly, at an early age, choosing good character and the right friends is important.  Wrong friends can lead you to make decisions early in life that haunt you for many years to come. 

The Elkhart County Sheriff has an Explorer’s program for youth ages 14-19 years that allows young people to explore the career of law enforcement and corrections, allowing youth to learn various facets of the career to see if the path is right for them.  In my next column, I will present the Explorer program and how you can get your child involved. 

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

 

Elkhart County Re-Entry Initiative

Dear Sheriff:  I have heard that you are involved in the removal of barriers for the willing ex-offender so that they may be more successful when they enter society from jail or prison.  Can you explain what this means?

 

Answer:  As Sheriff, I have no statutory obligation to be concerned about recidivism (fancy name for when an offender commits a new offense within a couple of years).  I could merely warehouse inmates like many other sheriffs do.

But I love this community and I’m concerned about you!  As a member of this community, I’m focused on your public safety.  I believe that every effort should be made to keep you from being victimized over and over again, often by the same offenders. So, I try to help ex-offenders return successfully to our community. 

In addition, I desire to make every attempt to reduce the bill to the taxpayers by reducing repeat offenders from coming back to incarceration at the tune of $40,000 or more every year. I don’t want to spend more money on building bigger jails or prisons.  I desire the successful return of ex-offenders to our community that they may be profitable members of our society and not just a member of the “frequent flyer club” at the jail.

Most inmates are not serving the “throw away the key” types of offenses.  Whether we like it or not, ex-offenders are returning to our community.  In fact, approximately 700 inmates a year are returning to Elkhart County from prison each year.  These ex-offenders reside in Elkhart County. 

On average, approximately 210 Elkhart County offenders released from prison will re-offend within two years.  That’s a significant effect on public safety and the expenditure of tax dollars.  Having an impact on just a few percent could have a major shift in crime in our community and provide a significant savings in the criminal justice system.

It behooves the criminal justice system, including the Sheriff, to be concerned about recidivism and removing the barriers that ex-offenders face.  Enter the Elkhart County Re-Entry Initiative, or ECRI for short.

Started around 2010, the vision of ECRI is “To assist all Elkhart County adult offenders in successfully reintegrating into their community as productive citizens, thereby reducing recidivism and promoting community safety.” 

ECRI is a group of community leaders, service providers and government officials, that meet once a month to take action on the removal of barriers that are perceived to prevent ex-offenders from being successful after their release from prison.  I say “perceived”, as often the barrier is not as bad as it seems.  For example, ex-offenders often believe they cannot get their driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card or insurance coverage without some act of God.   When in fact, ECRI has shown that these tasks are quite easily accomplished if you know the proper channels to proceed.  ECRI members can help ex-offenders with these tasks. 

ECRI members are currently focusing on ex-offender housing, including networking with willing landlords, and getting the word out to the public on the topic of ex-offender re-entry and how that topic affects you.  Other topics we are likely to take action on in the future include employment, transportation issues and education.  

So, if you know of a group of people that would like to hear the message of ECRI, please email me.  If you have a passion or a calling to help ex-offenders and you’d like to visit the monthly group meeting, with no obligation to join, and there are no fees, please email me for the details.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com

 

Sheriff Discusses Illegal Immigrant Enforcement

Dear Sheriff:  Given the recent developments at the federal level, what measures has your office taken, or is your office planning to take, with regard to immigration enforcement under the 287(g) Program? Will your personnel be deputized to “investigate, identify, apprehend, arrest, detain, transport and conduct searches of an alien for the purposes of enforcing the immigration laws”?

Answer:  The federal 287(g) program is the federal government’s version of deputizing local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.  The program may or may not offer monetary incentives to join the program.  At first glimpse this looks like something some people might say, “Yes, finally!” I have a different perspective.

On February 20, John Kelly, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, issued two memos concerning the implementation of two executive orders signed by the President on January 25, 2017. Both of these memos refer to the 287(g) program, which allows local law enforcement agencies to participate as an active partner in identifying criminal aliens in their custody and placing detainers (similar to a warrant) on these individuals.

The memos outline the expansion of this program so that more state and local law enforcement agencies would be authorized to “investigate, identify, apprehend, arrest, detain, transport and conduct searches of an alien for the purposes of enforcing the immigration laws.” There are currently only 32 law enforcement agencies in 16 states participating in 287(g). In previous years, there were significantly more law enforcement agencies participating in this program.

As sheriff, I operate a jail and I will continue to cooperate with Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents (ICE) when it comes to ICE placing detainers on illegal aliens who are incarcerated.  When that criminal alien’s case is disposed of, and they are released or bond out, ICE has 48 hours to come pick up the person with the detainer to start deportation proceedings.  If ICE does not pick up the alien in the 48 hours, I will release them back to the community.  This is the law that I must obey.

As sheriff, I’m willing to cooperate with federal law enforcement if and when they are in their legal right to take action in my county.  But I’ve never been a sheriff who is much willing to partner with the federal government where the authority of the sheriff may be in jeopardy or lessened, or my deputies have to acquiesce to the supervision of federal authorities. 

I typically don’t trust the federal government as a partner. If you’re a frequent reader of my column, that fact won’t surprise you.  I also don’t know what kind of strings are attached to such an agreement and what liability the sheriff is incurring for the county when partnering with the feds. 

As sheriff, I have enough tasks to do without doing the feds’ work.  They have kicked the can down the road on immigration reform far too long and I’m not about to place locally paid law enforcement officers doing the work of federal law enforcement.

I don’t have the resources, nor the jail space, to hunt down otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants when murders, robberies, burglaries, thefts, and other public safety issues are occurring and take the time of my deputies to investigate.  If you are an illegal immigrant and you commit a state law violation, I’m coming after you, just like I’d come after anyone who breaks state law. For others, don’t worry if you are living peacefully in our community while not breaking the laws of this state.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.   

Martial Law

Dear Sheriff:  Please describe the concept of martial law, how the government could declare martial law, how martial law works, the difference between an emergency declaration and martial law, and the implications of martial law on the people of this county and nation.

Answer:  In my last column I wrote about state of emergency declarations by the County Commissioners or the Governor, all of which are constitutional in their nature. Legitimate state of emergencies could result in curfews and travel restrictions. But, Martial (pronounced: Marshal) law is more serious.

Martial law is a term not found in either the United States or Indiana Constitutions. The concept of martial law seems to be the opposite of what the Constitution stands for; suspending the very rights the Constitution guarantees to “we the people.”

According to www.mentalfloss.com, martial law is defined as “the imposition of military forces to designated areas in order to regain, maintain, and secure when the civilian (local) government authorities are unable to do so and, in some cases, to enforce government rule.”

The U.S. Constitution does say in Article 1, Section 9, “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

Habeas Corpus is the concept of having the government prove that they have probable cause to detain/incarcerate you.  A writ of habeas corpus can be issued by a court upon a police agency. The writ forces the agency to produce the individual to a court, and to convince the court that the person is being held for an acceptable reason.

During the suspension of habeas corpus the military or other government agency will likely hold a person without a charge, possibly indefinitely. Removing habeas corpus is often the beginning of implementing full martial law, where all constitutional rights would be in jeopardy.

Although it seems the Constitution (in Article 1) does allow a very limited and narrow martial law, it is not clear as to who can call for martial law and to what extent. Martial law was declared after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and remained in some fashion until 1944.  Some suggest that martial law was called in New Orleans in 2005 as a result of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, where the government confiscated firearms and forced evacuations, although it was called by a less ominous name of “State of Emergency.”

A complete martial law is essentially the suspension of the Constitution, and all of its guaranteed rights, by whomever is in control of the government.  This would typically involve the military taking over all law and order, by which they may arrest and try civilians, seize private property including firearms, and institute curfews, prohibit free speech and free press, among other vague emergency powers.

However, the law prohibits the military take over of domestic law enforcement. The Posse Comitatus Act was passed to prohibit the use of federal troops to enforce domestic laws, except in the 1980’s when the law was changed to combat drug trafficking across international borders. Except for drug trafficking, the military today is generally not to be used for domestic law enforcement purposes in the United States, but can be utilized for search, rescue and disaster mitigation. Under martial law though, any law to the contrary is irrelevant.

I doubt you will ever hear any leader say the term “martial law” in the United States associated with any action, as it invokes extreme fear and rightly so.  A constitutional leader would never invoke full martial law. You’re likely to hear the words “State of Emergency”, which technically can be a good concept for a short time and until the situation stabilizes.  But always be aware the term could be a ruse for full martial law, the more dangerous action to all of our constitutional rights.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

Emergency Declarations

Dear Sheriff:  What happens when the local government declares a state of emergency in the county?

Answer:  Indiana law provides the Governor or the County Commissioners with the ability to declare an emergency situation in the state or county respectively.  Indiana Code 10-14-3-1 lists all the many types of disasters, some more ominous than others. 

The emergency list includes fire, flood, earthquake, windstorm, snowstorm, ice storm, tornado, oil spill, water contamination requiring emergency action, air contamination, drought, explosion, technological emergency, utility failure, critical shortages of essential fuels or energy, major transportation accident, hazardous material or chemical incident, radiological or nuclear incident, biological incident, epidemic, blight, infestation, riot, hostile military action, and act of terrorism.

The purpose of a local emergency declaration depends on the situation.  Generally, the purpose is to prevent or mitigate those disasters where possible, generally to provide for the common defense, to protect the public peace, health, and safety, and to preserve the lives and property of the people of the county, all while upholding the Constitutions of the United States and Indiana.

The County Commissioners, as is the Sheriff, are elected by all the citizens of the county, not just those living outside municipal limits.  Logically, the Commissioners’ role in emergency declarations includes municipal areas within the county, unless specified by the Commissioners.

In any disaster, and depending on the situation, the Commissioners will consult with the Sheriff, Highway Director, Emergency Management Director, Fire Service, etc., before declaring a state of emergency and the scope of the declaration. 

Based on my experience, witnessing this process in my 30 years of service at the Sheriff’s Department, the County Commissioners and others involved in the decision do not make this decision flippantly.  In addition, the Commissioners are in a tug-of-war of sorts; to not only listen and balance a variety of constituents’ opinions and needs, but addressing public safety and mitigation of the crisis while often dealing with quickly changing conditions. 

The Commissioners and I typically experience two paradigms:  Those who think government should keep their noses completely out of people’s business no matter how bad it gets, including those that believe their “constitutional right to travel” should not be restricted, to those who think they cannot do anything without government telling them what to do. 

The scope of the declaration may involve a travel warning, enforceable by law enforcement, to keep non-essential personnel from traveling on the roadways.  During a blizzard highway workers and police spend most of their time pulling people from ditches and snow drifts, preventing them from clearing the roadways.  The declaration keeps traffic off the road and allows the county to get back to normal as soon as possible.  The Commissioners, again while consulting with the same leaders that originated the emergency, decide to lift the restrictions as soon as safely possible. 

Being that Elkhart County encompasses over 400 square miles, some areas may not be affected by a crisis, while other areas are seriously impacted.  In the future, an emergency declaration may focus on narrow geographical areas, excluding the municipal areas, if applicable, and reduce the impact to businesses and travel of those not affected by the crisis.

In my next column I will look at more ominous emergency situations including what martial law is, how the government could declare martial law, how martial law works, the difference between an emergency declaration and martial law and the implications of martial law on the people of this county and nation.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com. 

Republic vs. Democracy

Dear Sheriff: What is the difference between a Democracy and a Republic?

Answer: There is a distinct difference between the two concepts. You will hear many a politician say “In this great Democracy of ours (in the United States)...” But is the United States really supposed to be a Democracy?

A true Democracy is all about what the majority desires. A simplified example is if a majority of a group of people wanted to punch Joe Citizen in the nose, they legally could. After all, the majority rules!

A Democracy is a ​government that is sometimes referred to as the "rule of the majority" (Definition of Democracy from Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

In the United States we have been groomed to believe we are a Democracy via our history and political speeches we hear. We are really a Republic; a Constitutional Republic. The Constitution guarantees the rights of the people are to be protected by the very government set up by that same people.

A Republic is the type of government which is formed where decisions rest in elected officials representing and been given the authority by the citizen body. The government leaders operate their authority according to the rule of law, and not just by a majority.

Oh sure, there are majority votes, such as legislators voting on proposed laws. But again, it’s all done by law and not by a mob bent on doing whatever they want.

“Rule of law” implies that every citizen is subject to the law, while protected by the law, including lawmakers themselves. Compare that to where the leaders in the government are held above the law and random decisions are made without parameters or standards.

The lack of the rule of law is evident in both true democracies and dictatorships. In our Constitutional Republic, corrective measures occur via the Constitution and the courts, restraint through separation of powers, and an oath required of its leaders to defend that supreme law, our Constitution.

Article IV, Section 4 of the United States Constitution says, “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a Republican (not the political party of today, but rather a Republic) form of Government…”

Even our Pledge of Allegiance acknowledges the oft-repeated phrase in schools and government meetings that we seem to gloss over and rarely think of the meaning of the words, “…and to the Republic for which it stands…”

It has been said that Benjamin Franklin, when asked what sort of government the constitutional convention had created for America, he replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

In a Republic, the minority (and I’m not talking just about race) like Joe Citizen is protected by the Rule of Law, regardless of what the majority of people would like to do. So, even though the majority of people wish to punch Joe Citizen in the nose, they legally cannot do so without consequence, because of the rule of law.

Now, in our country, mistakes have been made and the rule of law has not always been followed equally and fairly among all people. But, it should have been.

So, the next time you hear any local or national politician say the word “Democracy”, our country was never intended to be such. It’s really a Republic. Let’s keep it that way.

 Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.

Levels of Crimes

Dear Sheriff: Can you explain the different levels of crimes, some examples of each, and the potential punishments for each in the Indiana criminal justice system?

Answer: There are misdemeanors and felonies and different levels for each based on the seriousness of the crime. Misdemeanors are the least serious level and are divided into three categories. Examples I provide do not include all possible crimes or scenarios.

For penalties on lesser crimes, sentences/fines can be fully or partially suspended and probation may be instituted according to law at the judge’s discretion.

A class C misdemeanor is the least serious of the criminal violations and a person can be imprisoned for not more than 60 days and may be fined not more than $500. Examples would be speeding-reckless driving (25mph or over on the speed limit) and driving under the influence (DUI) if it is the person’s first DUI offense and the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is over .08 but less than .15.

A person who commits a class B misdemeanor can be imprisoned for not more than 180 days and may be fined not more than $1,000. Examples would be criminal mischief (vandalism) under $750 and battery (assault) on another person without injury.

A person who commits a class A misdemeanor can be imprisoned for more than one year and may be fined not more than $5,000. Examples would be theft under certain amounts, domestic battery and criminal mischief over $750 but under $50,000 and trespassing.

Misdemeanor and level 6 felony convictions, resulting in confinement, are often completed at the local jail, whereas other felony convictions resulting in incarceration are often carried out at a state prison.

The use of a firearm or vehicle in the commission of a crime, or causing bodily injury or serious bodily injury, or a crime directed toward a child, will often cause the crime to be elevated to a higher level, often a felony.

Felonies are divided into seven categories and are the most serious of crimes. These categories are:

A level 6 felony is the lowest level of felony in Indiana. It carries a penalty of 6 months-2 1/2 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. Examples are criminal mischief with loss of at least $50,000 and battery causing bodily injury and theft over certain amounts.

A level 5 felony carries a penalty of 1-6 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. Examples are burglary of a building and reckless homicide.

A level 4 felony carries a penalty of 2-12 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. An example is burglary of a dwelling.

A Level 3 felony carries a penalty of 3-16 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. Examples are aggravated battery causing a substantial risk of death of an adult and arson with injury.

A Level 2 felony carries a penalty of 10-30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. An example is voluntary manslaughter.

A Level 1 felony carries a penalty of 20-40 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. An example is aggravated battery causing the death of a child less than 14 years of age.

Murder is the most serious charge one can face under Indiana law. The sentence for a murder conviction is 45-65 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. In certain cases a murder conviction can result in a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Murder is also a capital offense, meaning that in certain cases a murder conviction can result in the death penalty being imposed.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

Firearms: Government Mandated Safe Storage and Safety/Proficiency Training

Dear Sheriff:  I believe there should be laws passed that require gun owners to have safe storage to secure their firearms from children or thieves, and require mandatory training before owning a firearm.  Do you agree?

Answer:  The elephant in the room is the government making those laws. Our government was not formed to establish or create rights.  If the government gives rights, they can take away those rights.  Our government was not established to protect people from all conceivable harm.  (If you disagree, read the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence). Our government was formed to protect our rights.

The Constitution was written not to establish those rights, but rather as a promise to the people that the government would protect those rights listed within the Constitution. The moment you allow government to “infringe” upon these unalienable rights, and allow the government to get their “nose under the tent”, the more the government will restrict and control and then come all the way in to the tent!

There is little evidence that safe storage laws will have much of an impact on safety or crime. According to Professor John Lott of Yale School of Law in his book, Safe Storage Gun Laws, “15 states that passed safe storage laws saw 300 more murders, 3,860 more rapes, 24,650 more robberies, and over 25,000 more aggravated assaults in the first five years.

“On average, the annual costs borne by victims averaged over $2.6 billion as a result of lost productivity, out-of-pocket expenses, medical bills, and property losses. The problem is, you see no decrease in either juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides when such laws are enacted, but you do see an increase in crime rates."

Then, there is firearms training. Training for safety and the proper use of a firearm.  Training for use-of-force and proper deployment of a firearm.  Training is good, but not when it’s mandated by the government. 

How much training?  Who does the training?  How much money is charged for the training?  What if the gun owner is already proficient in the use of firearms?  Who decides when someone is proficient?  What level of proficiency?  What if the government decides someone is not proficient; that someone has not had enough training?  Now what?

The harm with this type of mandated training is the potential to deprive citizens from a civil right which the Constitution guarantees “shall not be infringed.” To mandate training in order to exercise that right is to require that citizens spend money and time, then ask the government, to take advantage of that right.  (This is similar to requiring a permit to carry. Again, more money to spend in order to have the right you should already have!)

A hypothetical example of the training problem: A woman who is a victim of domestic violence has been threatened by her boyfriend that he will kill her. She has a protective order (which will not literally protect her) and she has filed numerous police reports when her boyfriend has assaulted her.  

She decides to purchase a firearm for her own protection.  The gun dealer is not authorized to give her the gun she just purchased, because she has not yet received the required government mandated training and the certificate of proficiency. This woman is not protected from a government created to protect her rights.

No, I do not support the mandated safe storage or the mandated training for the ownership of any firearm. On the other hand, I do support voluntary firearm safe storage and firearm safety and proficiency training!  I will not support government sticking their nose into this to create more laws that infringe on a citizen’s constitutionally protected right. 

 

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

 

Mandatory Evacuation in an Emergency

Dear Sheriff:  The recent wild fires in Tennessee started me thinking.  Because of the potential for tornados, railroad chemical spill, major natural gas leak or other local disasters I could be asked or ordered to leave my property. 

I believe I can assess the situation to determine what is in my family’s best interest without government ordering me here or there.   If I was ordered to evacuate, what is the county or your department’s policy regarding mandatory evacuations?

 

Answer:  In Indiana, the term “mandatory evacuation” is basically a recommendation.  There is no way any government official can make you leave your home in a disaster, at least not legally.

Under a "mandatory evacuation" emergency responders are basically telling persons in the hazard area, that if you don't leave, don't count on emergency help when you are in jeopardy and call 911, at least until the hazard is mitigated and we can safely respond to the area once again.

Emergency personnel will not give such an order or advice lightly.  We often have information that persons in the hazard area are under an immediate threat of serious injury or death.  Trying to explain this to every person in the hazard area is daunting and often impractical.

When emergency personnel ask for people to evacuate an area, we try to provide information on the distance, possible routes, and potential shelters where the persons need to travel to be safe, including the expected duration.   Radio and TV may be sources for this information.

When given the mandatory evacuation order, it is often best to heed the advice of the emergency personnel.  However, as Sheriff, I respect your right to “hold the fort” and do what you believe is best for your family or your property. 

No one will be forcefully removing you from your property or seizing your firearms like the government response during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  But if you do stand fast, you are on your own for the duration of the crisis.  This could be for up to 72 hours or more. 

This is a classic reason why a 72-hour kit or “bug-out bag” should be maintained for every member of the household.  The fear of evacuating your home at a moment’s notice can nearly be a disaster in itself.  Being prepared is helpful to mitigate the crisis of an evacuation and allow you to focus on other things that will help your family survive the disaster.

Let’s face it, in a county-wide crisis, law enforcement, fire service, medical services, volunteer agencies like the Red Cross and government in general will be overwhelmed.  The public could be on their own for up to 3 days until the situation stabilizes or outside help arrives.  Preparing now is important for your family’s safety.  So, I wouldn’t worry about the concept of a “mandatory evacuation” as much as being prepared when a disaster strikes.

You don’t need a nuclear bunker or a 5-year supply of food.  Most items you need to prepare are already in your home or are very cost effective.  Don’t wait until the “storm” is on the horizon to prepare.

I suggest you start now by creating a family plan in case you are separated, using family or friends in another county or state so that you may coordinate a meeting place.  Build a 72-hour kit for each of your family members to be taken with you in an evacuation or for long term shelter-in-place.  

Consider medications and special needs.  Create networks with neighbors and relatives, particularly those who are disabled or elderly, so that in a crisis those in need can be assisted.  Check the internet for a disaster plan checklist and prepare now for a true crisis, including evacuation.  Contact your local emergency management agency or Sheriff’s office for assistance.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing.Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

 

 

 

Methane Heating and Inside-Out College Course in the Correctional Facility

Dear Sheriff: Can you tell us how the landfill gas is used to heat the correctional facility and the savings to the community as a result?

Answer:  The Elkhart County Correctional facility was designed “green” to mostly fuel the inside environment and water heating through the methane gas generated at the adjacent Elkhart County Landfill. 

Methane is a gas that is created when garbage is deteriorating in the landfill.  The gas is collected through an extensive and complex system in the landfill cells where it was burned-off prior to the correctional facility opening in 2007. Some residual gas is still burned off.

Typically, trucking methane to off-site locations for use is not cost effective. But, having it piped next door to the correctional facility makes it financially worth the effort. 

It is estimated that about 70% of the facility’s heating is completed with methane.  The remainder is fueled by public utilities’ natural gas. The boilers of the complex have dual burning capabilities with either gas or both gases simultaneously. 

In our case, there is not enough methane being pushed to the complex to entirely utilize methane only.

Recently, the county’s landfill director asked the County Council to use accumulated landfill funds to expand the methane collection and increase the amount of methane to the corrections facility, for the goal of burning 100% methane and reducing the need for natural gas, thereby saving the taxpayers even more money in the extended future. 

Engineers estimate that the Methane production in the landfill will continue for 50 years or beyond; no one really knows for sure.

The use of methane from the county’s landfill is saving the tax payers anywhere from $175,000-225,000 annually than if natural gas was used exclusively. 

 

Dear Sheriff:  Can inmates take a college course and are students ever permitted to interact with inmates for purposes of higher learning about incarceration and the criminal justice system?

Answer:  Goshen College and the Sheriff have partnered to facilitate the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to occur inside the walls of the Elkhart County Correctional Facility.

Inside-Out brings an equal number of college students (“outside students”) together with incarcerated men or women (“inside students”) for a semester-long course to learn with and from each other, and to begin breaking down the walls of “them vs. us” between the two communities. All participants read a variety of texts and write several papers; during class sessions, students discuss issues in small and large groups.

Students will exchange ideas and perceptions about issues related to the criminal justice system, restorative justice, crime, punishment and rehabilitation, and violence and non-violence. The course has been held the last several years and will continue to be held at the correctional facility during Goshen College’s regular May term. 

The course helps build community and a sense of mutual respect, responsibility and accountability between the inside students and the outside students through their experience and  interactive learning environment that gives an equal voice and an equal role in the educational process to all.

As Sheriff, it has been very rewarding observing the inside students learn so much from the outside students.  Although there appears to be evidence in national studies, it is too soon to tell if this course impacts the re-offense rate of offenders who have taken the course in Elkhart County.

The perceptions of the outside students and the correctional environment are typically skewed prior to the course.  The outside students, as a result of the course, have a much better understanding of the struggles of inmates, inmate’s life inside the correctional facility, and sometimes inequities experienced or observed in the criminal justice system.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

Why the gun is civilization.

Dear Sheriff:  Wouldn’t we be a more civilized community without guns?

Answer: I answer this question with an article entitled “Why the Gun is Civilization.” 

“Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that’s it.

“In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

“When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force. The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gangbanger, and a single gay guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

“There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we’d be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a mugger to do his job.

“That, of course, is only true if the mugger’s potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat–it has no validity when most of a mugger’s potential marks are armed. People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that’s the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

“Then there’s the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser. People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don’t constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst.

“The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level. The gun is the only weapon that’s as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weightlifter. It simply wouldn’t work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn’t both lethal and easily employable.

“When I carry a gun, I don’t do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I’m looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don’t carry it because I’m afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn’t limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation…and that’s why carrying a gun is a civilized act.”

The article was reproduced with permission in its entirety from its author, Marko Kloos.  As your Sheriff, I wholeheartedly approve of this message.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Stop and Frisk Revisited

Dear Sheriff:  “Stop and Frisk” by police officers has been discussed in the news and by presidential candidates as a way of seizing illegal firearms and to control terrorism.  Some members of the media have stated that “Stop and Frisk” is unconstitutional.  What exactly is “Stop and Frisk” and can it be used as the candidates described?

Answer:  The 4th amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution protects us from government using “unreasonable search and seizures”.  Through the courts the police are guided in what is reasonable and what is not.

In 1968, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Terry v. Ohio, and refined a number of times since then through other cases, that the police may stop a suspicious person if the police can “articulate that criminal activity was afoot.”  This is more than a hunch but less than “probable cause” needed for an arrest. The stop is temporary. 

The scope of the stop is to quickly investigate whether the person is about to or has committed a crime.  The person is not immediately free to leave.  During the stop, if the officer develops probable cause that a crime has been committed, the person can be arrested.  If no probable cause exists, then the person is allowed to leave.  Typically the stop is defined in seconds and minutes, not in hours. 

As an example, a report was received of a woman being assaulted with a firearm in a vehicle in a shopping center parking lot.  A description of the suspect and victim, along with the vehicle description and direction of travel was broadcast to police officers.  Within moments, an officer observes the vehicle fitting the description with two occupants fitting the description provided near the location of the assault. 

The officer does not yet have probable cause for an arrest.  However, the officer can articulate, based on the current facts provided, that this vehicle may contain a suspect/victim of a crime.  The stop is justified as reasonable. 

A frisk is a search by an officer on a person whom the officer has briefly detained, as described above.  The scope of the frisk is merely for officer safety and is limited to the search for weapons in the outer clothing.  If an officer cannot describe any reason why he was in danger, then a frisk is inappropriate.

As in the example, because a firearm was described as involved in the altercation, the officer may conduct a frisk.  If a weapon is found, the officer may seize the weapon, for their safety, during the duration of the brief stop.

The weapon must be returned if the person legally possessed the weapon and it was not stolen, and the person was not arrested for a crime or committed for mental health issues. 

After briefly assessing the situation, the officer in my example finds that this is not the correct vehicle and the occupants were not the suspect/victim.  The officer politely explains the situation and the reason they were stopped and allows them to continue on their way.  On the other hand, if probable cause had been developed and the suspect was located, then an arrest is quickly made.

The world of criminal activity is a dangerous place.  Officers risk their lives daily as they serve to keep our communities safe.  “Stop and frisk”, a reasonable search and seizure with strict guidelines, helps to keep our public and officers safe.

The way some larger agencies have used “Stop and Frisk” inappropriately, and some candidates have suggested the concept be used, has neglected the safeguards laid down by the Supreme Court.  Any attempt to use or promote “Stop and Frisk” as a means to fight terrorism and seize illegal firearms in general, violates rights and is misguided and dangerous to our personal freedoms and liberty.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing  Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Identity Theft and Its Victims

Dear Sheriff:  Your officers occasionally arrest persons for identity theft.  Some people act as though this is a victimless crime.  Can you tell us what victims experience when their identity is stolen?

Answer:  Yes, I will tell you about Sarah (last name withheld for privacy) who has shared with me her situation. Her case is a criminal case opened in 2007 by local police and federal law enforcement and finally closed in 2010.  Here is Sarah’s story in her own words:

“‘If someone wants my identity bad enough there is nothing I can do to stop it’ were the words I spoke for many years and in late 2007 that is exactly what happened.  A bank called me early one evening to ask me if I had opened a credit card with them in the last 14 days. 

“I told the caller I neither opened nor applied for a credit card with her bank.  She then told me I was a victim of identity theft.  She strongly suggested I review my credit report immediately and file a criminal case with the local police department. 

“After reviewing my credit report, I found several new credit cards with nearly $12,000 of debt, an inquiry for a home loan in California, as well as an address to which I have never lived.  My first thought was, now what?  I had no idea what life had in store for me during the next couple of years.

“I contacted the police to report the identity theft and was told the case may never get resolved.  This was heart breaking to say the least.  But I did not give up.  After a while the police found the circumstance of the theft made this a federal case. 

“I worked with the Inspector General’s Office, spending hundreds of hours on the phone and multiple trips to banks and other agencies providing documentation of my case and verifying my identity.  This was an exhausting process and took over a year to fix. 

“Credit card transactions were reviewed and the court ordered details on transactions and security video. Finally, the person was found and arrested.  The process of numerous court dates began.

“I was extremely emotional to finally see the person responsible for so much time lost in my life.  The first time I saw her, she was dressed casually carrying a Coach purse!  That purse was more than likely purchased using a credit card opened in my name! I was angry.

“The next time I saw her was during her sentencing. The prosecutor asked if I would speak during the hearing to let the court know what impact this case had on my life.  The entire time I was speaking she had her back to me, she didn’t want to look at me. 

“This experience made me angry because I worked hard to get where I was in my life.  I grew up with my grandparents with little money and became a teen mom at 18.  Many people around me thought I would become a stereotype and a young mom on welfare for the rest my life; they did not know I was determined that was not going to happen.  I graduated from high school, obtained a college degree and achieved a great career making enough money for a successful life. 

“She chose to break the law and take what was not hers.  As I write this it brings back angry feelings.   She was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison and served most of it.

“I still say if someone wants my identity bad enough they will get it.  But now I regularly review my credit reports and receive alerts informing me of any changes.”

Identity theft is a serious crime that is not victimless.  As Sheriff, I will do my best to ensure that victims  have closure for their incident.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Senior Citizen Programs & Project Lifesaver

Dear Sheriff:  Are there any programs offered for senior citizens in Elkhart County to reduce their victimization?

Answer:  Yes!  Elkhart County Triad, a partnership with mature or retired adults, social service agencies and law enforcement, meets monthly typically in Goshen.  Its main goal is to reduce victimization (criminal and otherwise) while enhancing delivery of positive law enforcement services to this age group.

Triad was formed in Elkhart County in 1999 and welcomes public input at its meetings to raise awareness of scams, frauds, and other hazards that seem to plague senior citizens.

Triad offers speakers for a variety of issues for any group of seniors that wishes to be heard and/or educated on local crime trends, emergency preparedness, safe driving topics, or any quality of life issue that may affect them.  So, whether you meet formally or informally, and you desire to have a law enforcement officer come speak to your group, or you would be interested in participating in Triad, please contact me. 

Project Lifesaver is an important program that Triad helps sponsor for those who have a medical condition, such as Down's Syndrome, Autism, Alzheimer’ or dementia and are prone to wander from their place of care.

Nationwide, over five million people have Alzheimer's. This number is on the rise as baby-boomers age. Experts report that 60 percent of people with Alzheimer’ disease will wander at some point during the progression of the disease, and half of those will become lost and separated. 61 percent of wanderers not located within the first 24 hours are found deceased, even though most wanderers are found less than 1.5 miles from their place of care.

Elkhart County was the second county in Indiana to implement this program in 2003. There are currently 1,500 agencies nationwide that have Project Lifesaver.

Project Lifesaver is a rapid search and rescue response system that uses a radio frequency. Individuals enrolled in the program wear a small personal transmitter around their wrist or ankle that emits an individualized radio frequency tracking signal.

The caregiver is instructed to notify 911 if a client becomes lost, prompting the trained first responders to immediately begin a search with specialized mobile tracking equipment. The tracking equipment can detect signals denoting the individual’s location from a mile away on the ground or up to five miles by air.

Basically, the equipment allows rescuers to head in the direction of the lost person instead of searching for the “needle in a haystack.” Searches average 30 minutes, compared to hours and days by other means.

To date, a total of 3,174 rescues have been made nationwide through Project Lifesaver. There have been no injuries or deaths for any clients on the program. In Elkhart County, there have been five rescues to date, each taking less than 20 minutes.

The success of this program is profound for the safety of the missing person, tax-payer savings and success for the rescuers. In addition, caretakers using Project Lifesaver are given a peace of mind that keeps them from the worry of a wandering loved one.

There are currently 13 clients in Elkhart County's program. Even though there is a large need for this service,  pride or denial seems to be the reason more clients are not on the program.  More people in Elkhart County need to be on the Project Lifesaver program due to their medical condition. The goal is to provide the transmitter and monthly maintenance for the client and caretaker regardless of their ability to pay.

If you know a loved one or someone who would benefit from Project Lifesaver, or would like to sponsor a Project Lifesaver client locally, please contact me for a no-obligation discussion.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing  Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Funny Stories Part 2

Dear Sheriff:  Can you tell any funny stories that have happened to your employees while they are conducting police duties?

Answer:  One of my records clerks relates how she was two weeks out of training as a new employee when she was working at the service window in the sheriff’s law enforcement administration building.  She relates, “Someone came to the window, handed me their driver’s license and said ‘I am here to register.’  I thought this person was trying to register for the sex offender registry.

“I went to pull the file and could not find it. I asked the person ‘have you registered here before?’  They said no.  Thinking it odd, I gave the person all the applications to complete and took the person’s photo for the sex offender registry.

“It was about a day later when a detective came to me and asked why I was trying to register a person for the sex offender registry when all they wanted was a handgun permit!  Whoops!  Lesson learned.”

 

At the Elkhart County Correctional Complex, and being close to the county landfill, we have a lot of fowl that frequent the campus, including sea gulls, ducks, swans and Canadian geese. 

One of my officers relates how he was recently leaving the complex when he observed two geese with goslings on the driveway.  The male goose started flailing his wings and apparently getting angry that the officer was driving too close to his gaggle.  The goose got in front of the police cruiser with wings fully extended while honking incessantly, pecking at the officer’s car and blocking the officer’s path. 

The officer did not want to hurt the bird, so as the goose became distracted with a passing truck he crept passed the bird and pulled onto the roadway for quick getaway.  However, the goose had other plans. 

As the officer accelerated on the county road, he thought he had left the goose behind.  But as he looked to his left, he was startled to see the goose was now flying alongside at eye level of the driver’s side window of the police car.  The goose was looking at the officer while flying and providing a seemingly angry, honking “tongue lashing.” About a quarter mile down the road, the goose veered off to return to the complex.  The goose and the officer were uninjured.   

 

One day an officer was working patrol.  At about 5pm he grabbed dinner from a fast food restaurant. He relates, “Since I had to catch up on reports I pulled into a parking lot of a church a couple miles west of Goshen.  It was a nice day, so I had the windows down and was working on my reports while eating my dinner when I heard a strange noise coming from the west.

“I looked over and saw a goat had escaped through a farm gate and was meandering toward me. I opened my door and the goat started to climb into my patrol car driver’s seat.  The problem?  I was still in the driver’s seat! I struggled out, dusted my uniform off, and was finally able to get the goat safely back to the fenced-in area.

“A few minutes later, the bearded fugitive got out again and approached me, so I gave him a few fries and requested my dispatcher to contact the farmer.  A short time later the farmer arrived and took the goat home and secured him in his yard. You never know what kind of adventure you will have on any given day while on patrol!” 

 

Whether a police officer or a member of the public, would you like to share your funny police experience with me?  Email me and I will consider using it in my column. 

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing  Sheriff Brad Rogers 

 

County Council/Commissioners and the Sheriff and Courtroom Propriety

Dear Sheriff:  What is the role of the County Council and the County Commissioners in relationship with the Sheriff?

Answer:  Like the Sheriff, all members of the County Council and County Commissioners are elected.  The Sheriff runs the Sheriff’s office and all associated day-to-day tasks such as patrol, jail, process, records, court security, etc. 

The County Council holds the financial powers of county government. The Council appropriates all funds, levies all county taxes and makes decisions on spending approvals by department heads such as the Sheriff. 

The seven member council holds the purse strings of the county, and approves the budgets of each department. The Council oversees financial transfers, additional appropriations and what county employees will be paid. 

The County Commissioners are in the executive and legislative roles in the county.  The Sheriff is also in the executive branch of county government.

The three member board pass or rescind ordinances, recommend strategies on funding revenue and spending, construction of roads and other infrastructure, construction of county government buildings, decisions on county policy, county employee insurance, zoning, and receiving and approving bids and the signing of contracts for any county project.

The Commissioners “own” and are responsible for the maintenance of all the buildings, lands, and assets of county government, including the jail, police vehicles and law enforcement complex.  As a result, they also hold most of the liability associated with county governance. 

The Sheriff can bring in substantial revenue by the renting of vacant beds in the jail to other counties that need bed space.  There is no mandate that I do this and it is hard work for my staff.  The bed rental money does not go to the Sheriff.  Rather, it goes to the county’s general fund and shows a spirit of cooperation with the Council and Commissioners. 

It is an honor to have a good working relationship with the Council and Commissioners.  I believe it important, as I work to serve the community, that county leaders work collaboratively to do what’s best for the community.  We might not always agree on everything, but we have a respect and cooperation that transcends today’s typical national politics. 

 

Dear Sheriff: When a person is in court and as the judge enters the bailiff tells everyone, “Please Rise”.  What happens if I just take the attitude that “I’m good” and remain seated?

Answer:  Our courtrooms in our nation, and particularly in Elkhart County, have been a culture and tradition of respect and dignity.  Occasionally I have seen where someone who has dressed inappropriately for court has been asked to leave by the judge to change their clothes.  Business casual is a minimum standard for court. 

Propriety and conduct is also required and often enforced by a judge.  For example, someone in the audience who is talking may be asked to cease or be removed from the courtroom by the Sheriff.  At other times cell phones have sounded, prompting the wrath of a judge.

According to an Elkhart County judge, “The Indiana Supreme Court rules obligate a judge to maintain decorum in the courtroom.  Refusing to rise could be grounds for direct contempt of court which is punishable by incarceration without credit time up to 6 months.  It would be a sign of disrespect for the court as well as the violation of an order to rise.”

The judge further stated, “The only persons I have seen not rise are those in wheelchairs or disabled persons who are obviously allowed to remain seated.  It would be in the discretion of the judge whether to invoke the contempt power.  I think it would be more common for the judge to inquire why the individual did not stand and admonish them to do so in the future.”

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

 

New Gun Owner Advice

Dear Sheriff:  I’m a new gun owner.  Can you give me advice as to what I should do to keep my family safe and keep me out of trouble?

Answer:  In the last eight years, there have been many new gun owners.  Being a new gun owner can be exciting and scary at the same time.  With some proper planning your home can be a safe haven for you and your family, while protecting yourself from liability.

You have likely already obtained a firearm for your use.  However, I’m sometimes asked what is the best personal defense firearm to carry?  Actually, the best firearm is the one that you can hit the target and one you will actually carry. 

With so many body types and levels of personal strength and firearm styles, the choice is far and wide.  It’s best to go to a firearm’s range that will allow you to rent a variety of different weapons to try before you purchase. 

Get a gun safe.  Gun locks are cumbersome and won’t allow you to access the firearm in an emergency.  I prefer a safe that you can easily access but keep unauthorized persons, including children and burglars away from your guns. 

Get a secure holster.  You have an obligation when you are carrying a handgun to ensure the firearm is safe and secure.  If the firearm drops to the ground, or falls into the wrong hands, you may be held liable, civilly and criminally, if someone gets hurt.  

Way too often my officers get a call of an accidental shooting.  Typically, the owner of the gun shot themselves in the hand or leg.  Often this is due to unfamiliarity with the firearm’s operation. 

Get training on how your firearm operates, including malfunctions, loading, unloading and cleaning the firearm safely. 

Get plenty of “range time” with your new firearm.  Become familiar and confident with it.  You don’t need to fear the firearm, but you should respect it.  You should not carry the firearm until you have the training to use it with self-control and you are confident in your ability.

Hitting the target is not good enough.  There have been persons who were prosecuted for their improper use of their firearm.  You need training so you know the laws on when to use your firearm in any situation.  Don’t assume you know the law.  You can get yourself in trouble as a result of trying to be a Good Samaritan, when it really turns out to be an inappropriate use of your firearm. 

I would recommend a civilian training course.  Civilian training is often different than police training.  There are many instructors and courses available for the public.  Check the internet or with a local gun range as to what they recommend on civilian training. 

Never point the firearm, even unloaded, at anyone or anything you’re not prepared to shoot.  Keep the muzzle pointed down range or at the floor/ground.

If you reside in Indiana and have a handgun, you don’t need a handgun license if you carry the firearm on your property or place of business.  However, if you carry on your person or in your vehicle away from your property, you need a handgun license.  A rifle or shotgun does not require a license.  There is no gun registration in Indiana. 

The handgun license, obtained by starting with the application at the Indiana State Police (http://www.in.gov/isp/firearms.htm), allows for both concealed and open carry in Indiana.

You are prohibited to carry in such places as inside a school, courthouse, or airplanes. The firearm does not help you if it’s sitting in your vehicle or in the safe at home when you could carry to protect yourself or someone else.  

Carry your firearm whenever legally and physically possible…because you can’t carry a police officer everywhere you go.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com

Right-of-Way and Roundabouts

Dear Sheriff:  Can you provide the rules of the road for the Right-of-Way at intersections?  Who has the right-of-way at a two-way stop, the driver turning left or the driving going straight?  

Also, I do not like roundabouts.  I get so confused at roundabouts and when to yield or stop.  Please explain roundabouts.

Answer:  There is much misinformation out there among the public, and sometimes in law enforcement. The laws can be hard to read and understand with regards to intersections and right-of-way.

The law does not technically allow anyone the right-of-way, but rather it only states who are required to yield the right-of-way.  For safety’s sake, when a driver is legally required to yield the right-of-way but fails to do so, other drivers are required to stop or yield as necessary.

So, if another driver does not yield to you when they should, just relax and get over it. Let the other driver go first. You will help prevent accidents and make driving more pleasant and safe.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides recommendations and I’m borrowing their information to assist you.

If the type of intersection is a 4-way stop or a 2-way stop with a through road with no stop, there are four basic rules:

The first, called the Base Rule is “First to stop is the first to go.”  The first vehicle at the intersection goes through the intersection first.

Second, if the Base Rule doesn’t apply, “Farthest right goes first.”  When two vehicles arrive at the intersection at the same time, the vehicle to the right has the right-of-way. 

Third, if neither the Base Rule nor the Farthest Right Rule applies, “Straight traffic goes first.”  When two vehicles are directly across from each other and one is turning left, the one that is going straight goes first. 

Lastly, “When in doubt, bail out.”  Even if you have the right-of-way, if for any reason you feel uncomfortable or that your safety is threatened, including someone not yielding to you, let the other traffic go ahead. Never demand on taking the right-of-way.  

A misconception on two-way stops, with a through roadway that does not stop, is all vehicles traveling straight at the stop sign have the right-of-way regardless if they were there first. In this case, refer to the rules above.

At an intersection without stop or yield signs (uncontrolled intersection), slow down and prepare to stop.  You will often find these intersections in sub-divisions. Yield to vehicles already in the intersection or entering it in front of you. Again, refer to the rules above.

At roundabouts, I see many people unnecessarily stop, often aggravating others, when entering the roundabout circle even when no traffic is approaching or the traffic is far from the roundabout.  The yield sign at the entrance of the roundabout means when entering you only need to stop when a vehicle is approaching from the left and is so close you need to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle. 

Obey one way signs in the roundabout.  Slow down and stay in your lane (some roundabouts have more than one lane).  Continue through the roundabout until you come to your exit and then turn right, staying in your lane, as you exit. 

Once in the roundabout, all traffic entering the roundabout near you is supposed to give you the right-of-way.  But again, if they don’t yield, you need to drive safely so as to prevent a crash.

Roundabout studies have shown to reduce the severity of crashes at an intersection, reduce the number of potential accident points within the intersection, and can improve congestion and traffic flow at intersections.  Roundabouts are here to stay; learn how to drive them and enjoy their efficiency.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

 

 

Myths in Police and Corrections

Dear Sheriff: Can you write about some of the myths you hear discussed in police and corrections’ work as though they were facts, and share with us the truth?

Myth: The Elkhart County jail is full of: Minorities, illegals and persons charged with possession of marijuana.

Fact: Today, I have 753 inmates in the jail. 62% are Caucasian, 28% are Black, 9% are Latino and 1% are Asian.  22 (3%) are illegal aliens.  Those illegal aliens have committed state crimes and are awaiting trial or sentencing before potential deportation. 

Today, there are no persons in my jail for possession of marijuana only.  Typically Sheriff’s Deputies will cite and release for this offense. My philosophy is that jail should be reserved for those persons/crimes that are a serious danger to the community.

Myth:  Officers shoot to kill in a deadly force situation.

Fact:  Officers shoot to stop the deadly force if the officer or someone else is in immediate jeopardy of serious bodily injury or death.  Once the suspect’s deadly force stops, the officer’s deadly force should stop.  Unfortunately, any use of deadly force may result in the death of a suspect.  However, that is not the goal.  Many times, the officer who just used deadly force transitions to saving the suspect’s life with first aid after the situation has de-escalated.

Myth: If asked, undercover officers need to identify themselves as a police officer.

Fact:  Not true.  If an undercover officer had to confess to criminals that he was a police officer, the officer would be in grave danger.

Myth:  If you are arrested, officers cannot talk to you about anything unless they read you Miranda rights.

Fact:  Officers can speak to you as long as they are not interrogating you or asking incriminating questions.  If an officer asks for your name, date-of-birth, or address, this is not incriminating. 

Myth:  If you refuse to answer questions to a police officer they can arrest you for obstruction of justice.

Fact:  If you are hiding evidence on someone else, this could apply.  If it involves incriminating yourself, not true.  “Invoking the 5th Amendment” (the right to not self-incriminate yourself) is applicable and we hear it all the time.  In our Republic, we have the right not to talk and the government must prove their case against you without you testifying.

Myth:  If you are arrested you have a right to one free phone call in jail.

Fact:  There is no specific law requiring this.  However, at the Elkhart County Jail, if you are cooperative, a free local phone call is often provided.  Even if the free call is not allowed, arrestees have phones available to make collect calls.  If you are combative or highly intoxicated, the phone call will have to wait until you sober up or are cooperative.

Myth: You can travel 10-15 miles over the speed limit without getting a ticket.

Fact:  I wouldn’t bet on it.  Officers are allowed discretion and individual officers have different thresholds for stopping a violator.  Often, officers consider the driver’s record, how far over the limit, cooperation, excuses, and traffic and roadway conditions. 

Myth: You must wait 24 hours before reporting a missing person.

Fact:  Not true.  You should report the missing person as soon as possible.  If the missing person is an adult not in guardianship, and we find the person to be ok, the reporting person will not be told where the person is or any other details.  An adult has the right to go where they wish even if someone else is concerned about them.

Myth:  The Elkhart County jail is sinking.

Fact:  This urban legend has been around since before the inmates were moved to the new jail in 2007.  The jail is not sinking and I have no clue as to how this rumor got started.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

 

Smart Gun Technology

Dear Sheriff:  Do you support or recommend smart gun technology?

Answer:  Smart gun technology uses a small computer or chip to identify whether the person holding the firearm is supposedly authorized to pull the trigger.  The system requires two components:  The computer and the firearm connected to it.  As you will see, taken to its logical conclusion, smart gun technology is ultimately as unsafe as gun free zones. 

In a power outage, have you ever gone to your kitchen drawer or your glovebox of your vehicle and reached for the flashlight you knew was there, and upon retrieving it realized the batteries were dead?  Electronic devices such as smart guns need a power source.  Without battery power they cannot be fired. You’re a woman home alone at night and an intended rapist kicks your door down.  You reach for your smart gun, but realize too late that the firearm’s battery is dead and you cannot protect yourself from being his next victim. 

At least one smart gun requires the owner to wear a special bracelet or ring which then keeps the gun from firing unless the gun is within a short distance of the wearable device.  The gun is useless without this device.  Just as we should never forget our house or car key, locking ourselves out, but on occasion frustratingly do, is it possible to forget the very device you need to allow you to use a firearm to defend your life? 

Another weak link for the wearable “authorization” device on smart guns, is the lack of flexibility to allow other authorized users from using the firearm.  For example, in a family trained to use the firearm, only one authorized user would have the wearable device.  If the person wearing the device is not near the gun, or may not be available to respond to the deadly force, the firearm is worthless to defend a life.   Can a wife use the gun authorized for her slain husband and fire it at the intruder before she is attacked? No, she’s not wearing the device and the gun will not fire. 

Have you ever tried to access your phone or computer but it was locked up and you had to reboot to gain access again?  Computers do malfunction from time to time. Citizens protecting themselves or their families could be killed if their weapon malfunctions during a home invasion. Firearms do mechanically malfunction from time to time, training of which is required to deal with these malfunctions.  Adding a computer malfunction to the mix is time consuming and unreasonable.

Some smart gun models are proposing biometrics to verify their lawful use.   Have you ever used a fingerprint reader, either on your smart phone or computer to log in, but something on your fingers, such as sweat, dirt, or an abrasion or cut that temporarily alters the print keeps you from accessing your device?  Authenticating technology is finicky and subject to errors.  Now add the stress of a deadly force encounter, a shaky owner, sweating profusely or even a bloody finger.  Not a reliable combination.

Because a computer is involved, viruses, hackers or maybe even electronic interference may play a part in smart gun failures.  Then, for those that don’t trust the government, could the Department of Justice or the National Security Administration actually remotely shut down the smart gun?  Who knows?

This sheriff will not have any part in using or recommending smart gun technology.  Calling 911, it will take 10-20 minutes on average for a police officer armed with a deadly weapon to respond to a deadly force situation.  I want the non-computerized, non-electrical powered, very reliable, loaded handgun, shotgun or rifle, ready for the lead reception to the unauthorized home invasion intruder. 

Now, do you support smart gun technology?

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

12-hour shifts

Dear Sheriff:  I have read that your officers recently started 12-hour shifts.  Why?  How do the shifts work?  Does your staff like the new schedule?  Is officer fatigue a problem?  How much does it cost?

Answer:  The Sheriff’s Department is one of the few county departments that operate 24/7.  Both the patrol and corrections’ divisions have been moved to 12-hour shifts.

The plan is based on a 14-day work schedule. There are four teams of officers for both patrol and corrections.  Two teams on day shift and two teams on night shift.  When one team is on duty, the other team is off.

An example of one team’s 14-day schedule is to work Sunday, off Monday and Tuesday, work Wednesday and Thursday, off Friday, Saturday and Sunday, work Monday and Tuesday, off Wednesday and Thursday and work Friday and Saturday, where it repeats in this ongoing cycle. 

In a two week period, officers only work 7 days and are off 7 days.  Officers are not scheduled for any more than three days in a row before having days off, which occurs only once in the two week period.  Most work days are no more than two consecutive days before having days off.  All officers have every other weekend off, a unique incentive for newer officers.

Some additional features of the 12-hour shifts are:

Officer Safety: With more officers on patrol and in the jail during a shift, the ability for officers to support each other in high or unknown risks is more likely.

Community Safety: The benefits to the community range from increased response time for calls for service to higher visibility and the ability to be more proactive, both in public and inside the jail. It is clear that our core value of Service plays a role in this decision.

Line staff were involved in suggesting this 12-hour schedule.  Officer feedback for this change was crucial in my consideration for the change.  In both personal interviews and survey results, a solid majority of the officers preferred the 12-hour shifts and the time off it allowed, during the 3 month trial period.

Officers had been discouraged by not being allowed time off due to minimum coverages under the 8-hour shifts.  12-hour shifts allow for more officers to utilize earned vacation or compensation time with less chance of staff shortages on the shifts when someone calls in sick or is on vacation.

Officers can maximize their time off with the 12-hour schedule.  For example, officers would need to use only 24 hours (the equivalent of three-8 hour days) of vacation and yet can receive seven days off in the schedule due to coinciding with days off.

Because each team member has the same days off and regularly works together with the same supervisors on 12-hour shifts there is the potential for better teamwork and the consistent measuring of performance by supervisors, compared to 8-hour shift dynamics.

According to the majority of officer feedback, and during the trial period, fatigue was not a problem.  Even if an officer would become overly fatigued on any given work day, there is enough flexibility with staffing that a supervisor could occasionally allow an officer to have an abbreviated work day, such as only 8 hours.

Recruiting and retaining employees is more favorable with 12-hour shifts according to the majority of officer feedback.  The 12-hour schedule has already attracted officers from other departments to hire on with the sheriff’s department.

With the benefits of enhanced manpower with 12-hour shifts, the cost to the county is approximately $140,000 a year compared to $1,200,000 or more of cost to the county for the number of new positions I would need to add for the same coverage for 8-hour shifts. 

Our core value of Resourcefulness is a consideration on how we better use our resources and doing more with less to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer funds.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers.

 

A Code for Teenagers, Circa 1960's

Dear Sheriff:  The Ask-the-Sheriff column reveals your thoughts on a variety of issues.  Do you have any writings from past Sheriffs that you can share?

Answer:  Woody Caton was the Elkhart County Sheriff from 1958-1965 and printed a pamphlet for teens.  Here is the content of the pamphlet using the exact language the sheriff used:

A Code for Teenagers.

“You cannot believe in honor until you have achieved it.  Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” –George Bernard Shaw

This code is to be used as an ethical guide and is not to be interpreted as law.

It does not matter too much what the outside of a boy or girl looks like any more than it matters what the outside of a house looks like.  It’s what goes on inside that counts.

Keep your mind and body clean.  It’s the only one you will have.

Respect for Authority:  Respect authority of parents, teachers, governmental officials, religious leaders and all other persons who are responsible for your guidance.  Respect persons of your own age group who have been appointed or elected to be your leaders. Earn respect by respecting the authority of others.

Respect for Rights and Property of Others:  Teenagers should respect the property of others, both public and private.  The rights, dignity and privileges of all individuals deserve your respect.  You should take pride in your city, home and school.  Leave a place as you would like to find it. People of other religions and races and their customs are to be respected.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Party Rules for Guests: Answer invitations promptly.  Present yourself to host and hostess.  Be considerate of your host’s property.  Cooperate with host’s plans for entertainment.  Do not overstay your welcome.  Crashing is inexcusable.

Social Hours: Agree with your parents on reasonable hours.  End all teenage social events no later than 1:00 a.m. except on special occasions.  Notify parents on any delay or change in plans.

Appropriate Dress and Grooming: Wear clean, neat clothes to school (e.g. slacks and dress or sport shirts for boys, blouses and skirts or dresses for girls). Avoid excessive ornamentation and extreme dress. Complement your appearance by a proper haircut.  Avoid radical hair styles.  Do not show poor taste by using too much make-up.  Dress for parties, formal or informal, as host suggests. 

School Conduct:  Cheating is stealing for both giver and receiver.  Support your school activities.  You are your school’s foundation.  Keep it sound.

Driving:  Driving is a privilege, do not abuse it.  Obey traffic laws.  Demonstrate courtesy while driving.  Observe the rules of safety.  Be sure your car is inspected three times a year.  A safe car makes for safe driving.

Smoking:  Smoking is discouraged because of its harmful effects.

Drinking:  Without exception, the answer is “NO.” 

Religious Training:  Teenagers are urged to attend the church or synagogue of their choice.  Participate in youth activities of your church.  “God gives you a week, you can give Him at least an hour.”

Truth About our Jail Prisoners:  Our jail is full of persons who have no respect for other people, their property or themselves.  They do not attend church, have no hobbies, play no sports, quit school at 16, can’t get along with teachers, had nothing to do with cub or boy scouts, did not listen to their parents or show them respect, thinks laws are made for everyone but them, did not assume responsibility around the home and have no respect for themselves.

I welcome groups to visit the jail, please give several days’ notice. –Sheriff Caton

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Transfer of inmates in 2007

Dear Sheriff:  Inmates were transferred in secrecy from the old Goshen Jail to the new Elkhart Correctional complex in 2007.  Now that significant time has passed, can you explain how this process worked?

Answer:  The process of moving the inmates is very interesting and completed while most people were in bed and unaware of this historic move.

To review, county government had a lawsuit pending for jail overcrowding conditions.  The original jail was designed for 301 and later revised to 415.  In 2003, there were well over 415 inmates and this prompted then-Sheriff Mike Books, with the approval of the County Council and Commissioners, to start the design process of building a new 1000 bed jail, which in turn, stopped the lawsuit. 

It took one year to design and three more years to build the new facility in Elkhart.  The new site was selected because the Goshen site was landlocked, inefficient, and impractical to renovate for the number of beds and services needed, the county already owned the new property, and the landfill methane gas would be used, saving $250,000 annually to heat the jail.

At the time the new jail was completed, the inmate population was 626.   Officers received a great deal of training in the new facility and lots of training on the logistics of moving many inmates safely.  Then, on November 16, 2007, at 9pm, for security reasons the move began without public announcement.

Inmates are often separated into classifications to protect them and others and to avoid disturbances within the facility.  So, violent inmates, inmates who were witnesses against each other and needed to be separated, gang members that would not get along with other factions, and inmates prone to victimization if it were not for our intervention, are all safety considerations in a large scale inmate move. 

All the Sheriff’s corrections/patrol officers, detectives and command staff were on duty to participate and oversee the process.  The incident command center was located in the training room of the new jail where command staff oversaw the process, internal cameras of the new facility could be observed, and any issues that came up could be resolved quickly.

There were three main components in the moving of inmates:  Searching inmates in Goshen, transporting inmates, and receiving inmates in the new facility.   

Officers at the Goshen jail worked on searching every inmates and labeling the inmates’ property so it could be reunited with its owner at the new jail.  Officers at the new jail received every inmate, again searching them, guiding the inmates because of their unfamiliarity with their new surroundings, to their housing assignment and providing clean clothing and bedding while orienting them to the new procedures.

Although the new complex has an intake garage that could fit a bus, the old jail could only fit vans, thereby limiting the size of vehicles to be used.  There were two transport teams.  Each team consisted of two vans of inmates (approximately 30 inmates) with two escort vehicles containing armed tactical officers in case of trouble along the route.  Each team was tracked with GPS technology so the incident command center could track the progress and locations of the transports.

The transports were timed to maximize efficiency.  While one transport team was transporting to the new jail, the other transport team had just dropped off inmates at the new facility and was headed back to the old jail.  Routes from Goshen to Elkhart were varied to avoid potential problems.

Over and over again the transport teams and all the officers involved persevered, until approximately six hours later at 3am, all 626 inmates were successfully transported without incident to the new facility.  Inmate property was then transported and returned to the appropriate inmate.

Today, the “new” jail facility, with an average of 650-700 inmates, is just as clean, well-maintained and secure as when it was opened in 2007.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com

 

Sex Offender Registry in Elkhart County Part 2

Dear Sheriff:  How does the Sex Offender Registry work in Elkhart County?

Answer:  In my last column I summarized part of the process the Sheriff’s office takes in registering and tracking a sex or violent offender to provide information to the public through the Sex Offender Registry (SOR).  In part 2, I discuss additional behind-the-scene tasks to make the SOR reliable and up-to-date and how you can access this important information from your computer, including receiving alerts direct to your email. 

A Sex Offender commits a felony if they knowingly or intentionally fail to register, fail to register in every location (such as in another county) where they are required to register, lie or leave out information on the registry, fail to register in person or do not live where they are registered. If the investigation reveals that an offender has not complied with these requirements a case is generated and sent to the prosecutor’s office for review for criminal charges for Failure to Register.

The SOR detective receives many inquiries by offenders who have questions or want an address checked for eligible housing location. The detective receives daily tips, phone messages and emails from the public.  For example, they know an offender on the registry and he lives with kids or close to a park and wondering if that is proper. The detective will research the offender and investigate any restrictions to answer the inquiry, then reply to the tipster and file criminal charges against the offender, if necessary.

The SOR detective receives ongoing training that is needed to keep up with the ever changing SOR software and to keep up with current laws, court rulings and trends. Although seemingly minor, this training is necessary to properly classify registrants and investigate registry violations, while keeping the database as accurate as possible for the public and law enforcement.

As offenders move to another county from Elkhart County it is necessary to contact other Sheriffs to let them know an offender is moving to their area.  When offenders move to Elkhart County information about the offender needs to be obtained. The detective will often collaborate with Elkhart County Probation, US Marshal Service and State Parole as many of the offenders are still reporting to these entities after their incarceration.

Every month letters are sent out to remind offenders their time to check-in is drawing near.  Also, mailings are sent to offenders to verify their address and employment. Over 200 mailings go out each month.  Mailings are used in conjunction with house checks referred to in Part 1.  When the information is returned it is verified and entered into the database. 

Every month the 911 center is required to send the Sheriff’s office a list of registered sex offenders that have been entered into the national database. Those entries need to be confirmed whether those persons still need to be in the database to ensure up-to-date information for law enforcement personnel nation-wide.

To access this SOR information, go to www.elkhartcountysheriff.com and click on the sex offender registry link.  You can then access the entire registry (residents of the county and those who work in the county but live outside the county), search by name, view non-compliant offenders, search for offenders living near your home or another address (such as a babysitter), see photos and addresses of offenders, and see the crime(s) they were convicted of.  You may also elect to receive email alerts when sex offenders move in to your area or are employed near your home.

As you can see, the SOR task is time consuming and demanding. But, the Sheriff’s office wants the public to have the most accurate information available.  Special thanks to my SOR detective, Jim Smith, for assisting me with this column. 

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com

Sex Offender Registry in Elkhart County

Dear Sheriff:  How does the Sex Offender Registry work in Elkhart County?

Answer:  The Sex Offender Registry (SOR) is a system managed by each Indiana county’s Sheriff to keep track of sexual misconduct offenders who are convicted by our criminal justice system.  The Sheriff’s office works to keep the community aware of sex offenders and violent predators who work or live near you by giving you up to date and easily accessible information through the registry.  I have assigned a detective to track and administer the SOR. This is the behind-the-scenes look on how the registry process works.

On a daily basis Sex and Violent offenders come to the Sheriff’s office and make changes to the information that they are required to register to include address, employment, vehicle information, new tattoos, email address and social media. Upon their arrival a records clerk will receive the required information and take a current photo of the registrant. When the SOR detective confirms the information the website is updated. On average 40 to 50 Sex Offenders make changes to their required information each week.

A Sex or Violent Offender is required by state law to register in every county they live, work, attend school, owns property or volunteers. In Elkhart County there are on average 410 Sex or Violent Offenders who live in Elkhart County and an average of 90 who live in another county but are working or attending school and are required to register in Elkhart County.

Typically first time registrants will come to the Sheriff’s Department and make arrangements to meet with the SOR detective.  Formal registration will take approximately 2 hours. This will include obtaining and confirming all required personal information, taking a current photograph, reading and explaining all of the rules and requirements so that the registrant understands what is required of them. 

The detective will obtain the offender’s court documents to properly classify them and determine if they have a residence restriction. The detective will work with the registrant to make sure their residence is not in violation of their restrictions. On average 3 to 4 new registrants a week appear at the Sheriff’s office.

If an offender is classified as a Sexual Violent Predator or an Offender Against Children they have residence restrictions. They are prohibited from living within 1000 feet of a School, Park, Daycare or a place that provides Youth Services. They are also prohibited from living within 1 mile of the victim of their sex offense. The Sheriff has several data bases that are used to determine compliance with these parameters.  It is not uncommon for the SOR detective to drive to a neighborhood, call or send letters to churches or other locations to determine if they provide youth services. On average 50 addresses a week are checked for compliance. 

If an offender is classified as a Sexual Violent Predator, Sheriff’s deputies perform a house check to confirm their residence once every 90 days. The SOR detective compiles the list of house checks that are due for their 90-day checks and assigns them to the patrol officers. There are approximately fifteen 90- day house checks a week. 

All other offenders, Sex Offenders and Offenders Against Children, Sheriff’s deputies perform a house check to confirm their residence annually.  Like the 90-day checks, a list is compiled and assigned to patrol officers and detectives.  Each officer will have 5-7 house checks.  There are approximately 400- 425 house checks depending on how many offenders reside in Elkhart County. 

In my next column, I will continue with part two on this transparent look of the process of the SOR and how you can access this important information.  Special thanks to my SOR detective, Jim Smith, for assisting me with this column.  

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Funny Stories from Officers

Dear Sheriff: Can you tell any funny occurrences that have happened to your officers while they are on police duties?

Answer: There are many comical stories that my officers have shared with me over the years. Some are not fitting to print. Here are a few of the stories that are family friendly. Enjoy!

Detective Jim Smith shared, “I was working midnights and a 911 call came in from a mother who was awakened by loud noises coming from the downstairs living room. The mother and her young son had  locked themselves in an upstairs bedroom closet and were frantically conveying to the dispatcher that someone was in the house and they needed an officer to hurry.

“I arrived and went to the locked front door. I kicked the front door attempting to make entry but it did not move. I kicked it again a couple more times as hard as I could but it did not budge. I kicked it hard enough the bulb in the porch light broke but that door would not move. I went to the back door of the garage. After my experience with the front door I was ready for the same so I gave it all I had. I went through the door with ease. I went to the garage/kitchen door and again gave it my all. The door and frame splintered into pieces as I entered.

“Hearing the loud noise myself, with flashlight in hand, I charged bravely into the residence with another officer behind me ready to save the residents from the intruders. What I found was the family dog lying in the middle of the living room playfully chewing away at an empty plastic 2-liter soda bottle, creating the loud noise. The family was very glad it was not an intruder. They thanked me for my quick response and apologized to me. As a side note, extra-long screws in the door frame and a good dead bolt does make a difference.”

Ofc. Craig Polacheck (now retired) relates: “Early one morning I stopped a vehicle for speeding. When I approached the vehicle I noticed the driver was a mature male with his wife as the passenger. I politely indicated that I could issue a citation for speeding or give him a verbal warning, which would allow his wife to play the role as ‘Judge and Jury’ to dictate his punishment. The wife looked at me with a very agreeable head nod. The driver looked at his wife and then at me and said very sincerely, ‘Give me the ticket!’ We then smiled at each other as I handed him his license and we parted ways. I left almost feeling sorry for the guy!”

Detective Mike Daly shared a time when he was on patrol: “I was following a small passenger car being driven by a female. In the back seat was a small child that kept standing up on the back seat and looking out the back window at me. It looked as if the child would pop up, make faces at me and then duck back down.

“This happened enough times that I decided to stop the car for the child restraint violation. I pulled the car over and approached the driver’s side. I looked in the back seat and found a properly restrained child holding a mannequin head. He was holding it on his lap and occasionally he would lift it up so it cleared the back seat facing backwards. I informed the young mother of the reason for the stop. We both had a good laugh.”

Whether a police officer or a member of the public, would you like to share your funny police experience with me? Email me and I will consider using it in a future column.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Solving Violence with Peace

Dear Sheriff: Why do you always want to solve problems of violence with guns? Guns in schools, guns in homes, guns here and there; that’s all you talk about. Why not address conflicts in a peaceful fashion to avoid gun violence?

Answer: I recently met with a group of citizens that were concerned with my community conversation to arm a limited number of school staff to protect our children. The meeting was very respectful, but we disagreed on many of the discussion points. They said I am trying to solve violence with guns.

There is a misconception among some people that those who defend gun rights and/or promote the removal of gun free zones in public places, are solving problems with violence. Likewise, there is an impression among some pacifists that law enforcement officers are violent people. Both concepts are false!

I am a peaceful person; a peace-loving person. I don’t like violence. I prefer to avoid violence. Every officer I know would prefer to avoid violence. I always try to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. Any officer, or person who carries a firearm, and who arrogantly and haughtily desire violence in resolving a conflict, should not be carrying a firearm, in my opinion.

In law enforcement, the goal is to resolve conflicts peacefully, thus the title that should be every officer’s banner, that of a “peace officer”. But any violence that occurs is typically dictated from the choices and culpability of the criminal.

If a criminal takes someone hostage, peace officers will attempt to resolve the conflict without bloodshed, including the use of negotiators. The last resort of force is only taken if there is someone killed or imminently in danger of being killed or seriously injured. Most hostage situations are resolved in a peaceful manner due to the restraint shown by law enforcement.

In a mass murder situation, where multiple people are shot and the murderer is on a rampage for a body count, I know of no situation where I, or any pacifist, would be able to set up a table and invite the murderer to sit down and initiate a peace conference. It’s just not going to be successful.

What will be successful in that situation? The matching of force versus force while neutralizing the threat, either through the fear of the use of force, or the actual use of force. Sometimes this is necessary. Sometimes there are no options remaining. Then, there is peace.

If you are in the midst of a mass murder situation, and you believe the situation should be handled without violence, and you call 911, you are calling the force of government to protect you from the murderer. Officers will arrive prepared to defend you, putting themselves in harm’s way, and use the reasonable force necessary, up to and including deadly force, to resolve the situation. Your action of calling 911 may facilitate the use of deadly force by officers.

In a mass murder situation in progress, if you choose to peacefully resolve the situation yourself without the use of violence or calling the police, please let me know how that works out for you. The police will come and take photos of the bodies, call the Coroner and investigate the crime.

Those who are serious about concealed carry of a firearm, including peace officers, do so because of the love for their fellow man, to place themselves between you and the threat, to protect others and keep the peace.

Every year firearms are used 2.5 million times in the use of self defense or preventing a serious or violent crime. As a lover of peace, your premise that those who carry a firearm or support gun rights, or even discourage gun-free zones, are trying to solve conflicts through the promotion of violence, is just not accurate.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Crash Reports, Left Turn Lanes, and Miranda Rights

Dear Sheriff: If I’m involved in a very minor vehicle collision and there is no one hurt, do I need a police report?

Answer: Indiana law requires if there is a collision which results in someone’s injury or the total property damaged is over $1000, which doesn’t take much these days, you need to file a crash report with the police.

Regardless of the minimum parameters, your insurance company may prefer a police crash report. Even under the limits, Elkhart County Sheriff’s officers will typically file the report if you ask. Some police agencies will not take a report if it’s under the threshold.

If you and the other driver decide to exchange information in lieu of a police report, make sure you get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, insurance information, vehicle information including registration number, while you provide the same for the other driver. Take a photo of the other vehicle, the damage, and driver, if possible. The best bet is to always call the police and, at the very least, let us help you in the exchange of information if no report is necessary.

If the damage/injury is clearly such that a police report is necessary, but the other driver wants to merely exchange information or desires to quickly leave, call the police anyway. The other driver may not have insurance, have false vehicle registration, have no license or their license is suspended, or may have a warrant for their arrest. Take a photo of the other driver and car before they leave. If possible, safely follow the other vehicle if they leave (do not speed, be reckless, or get in a confrontation), while relaying your location and direction to the 911 center.

In Elkhart County, always call 911 for a crash report, or the non-emergency number (574) 533-4151 to request a police response.

Question: I have a friend who was stopped by a police officer for turning left out of a drive and onto the center left-turn-only lane of a highway to then merge into traffic. What is wrong with that?

Answer: The center lane on a three or five lane highway (such as US 33 between Goshen and Elkhart) is a left-turn-only lane. Some use this lane inappropriately for merging right into traffic after turning left onto the highway from a drive.

When signage and road markings clearly indicate that the lane is used for “left turn only”, the violation is the disregarding of a traffic control device or improper lane usage. Most officers are using this opportunity to educate the public on the dangers of using this lane for merging purposes.

If traffic is too heavy to complete a proper left turn from a drive, it may be more prudent to turn right and use other options in turning around and travel in the direction you originally desired.

Question: Is it improper if I am arrested and the officer took me to jail without reading me my Miranda rights?

Answer: Your Miranda rights, also called the Miranda Warning, were outlined in a monumental Supreme Court case, Miranda vs Arizona in 1966, emphasizing the 5th and 6th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. In that case, it generally requires the police to remind someone (also called “Mirandizing”) who is in custody and being interrogated for any crime, their awareness of the right to remain silent or to avoid self incrimination, and the right to legal counsel/attorney. If you are under arrest and the officer does not ask you any questions pertaining to a crime, or the officer merely asks for your name, address and date of birth, or engages in casual conversation that causes no self incrimination, there is no need for the Miranda warning.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

The County Coroner and the Sheriff

Dear Sheriff: I’ve heard the Coroner can arrest the Sheriff. Is this true? What else does the Coroner do?

Answer: According to Indiana law, a warrant for the arrest of the county Sheriff shall be served by the Coroner or any other person to whom it may be legally directed.

The present authority of the Coroner to arrest the Sheriff originated from the 12th century when the British King became concerned with the growing power of the Sheriff and other elected officials. The Coroner was to monitor these officials. The Indiana Coroner is in the line of tradition going back to the officials who represented the interests of the King. They were called Coroners because they represented the crown.

For many years it has been the function of the Coroner to oversee the honesty and integrity of death investigations. Due to the importance of investigating the surrounding circumstances when a person dies, it is significant to have a public official whose primary duty will be to investigate these deaths without leaving it merely to the police. In Indiana counties, we elect a Coroner to supervise the process of determining the cause and manner of death.

The Coroner performs the duties of the Sheriff if the Sheriff is unable to perform and has no chief deputy. I do have a chief deputy, so that wouldn’t likely happen in Elkhart County. The Indiana law goes further to explain when there is no chief deputy, the Coroner performs the duties of the Sheriff when, “the Sheriff's personal interest or involvement with some aspect of his official duties would render his performance of those duties a conflict of interest, or otherwise a breach of the public trust; when the Sheriff becomes mentally or physically disabled, or is absent, to the extent that he is unable to discharge his duties; and, when there is a vacancy in the office of Sheriff.”

But a Coroner would not need to be Sheriff for long. If a vacancy would occur in the office of Sheriff, a caucus of the County’s Precinct Committeemen of the same political party of the vacating Sheriff would be convened shortly to select a new Sheriff until such time that a new Sheriff would be elected in the normal election cycle. This actually occurred in 1975 when Sheriff Edward Robinson died and Dick W. Bowman was selected as Sheriff and was later elected to two terms.

Coroners must investigate deaths. When the coroner is notified of suspicious or unexplained death, he must notify law enforcement and the law enforcement agency must assist in the death investigation. The Sheriff’s office works closely in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration with the Coroner during death investigations.

Death scenes may not be disturbed until the Coroner has photographed them. Sometimes this can be part of the reason it takes some time to once again allow the flow of traffic at a fatal crash scene.

The Coroner must identify the person who died. The Coroner must issue a death certificate within 72 hours, even if the cause of death is unknown. A supplemental report may be filed when the cause of death is established.

If required, the Coroner must employ a board certified pathologist to perform or supervise an autopsy. The Coroner can place the manner of death into five categories: Accidental, Natural, Suicide, Homicide or Undetermined.

Interestingly, Indiana law states, “A person who, without the permission of the coroner or a law enforcement officer, knowingly or intentionally moves or transports from the scene of death the body of a person who has died from violence; or in an apparently suspicious, unusual, or unnatural manner; commits a felony.”

Elkhart County will have an opportunity to vote for a new Coroner in 2016. The current Coroner, John White, is term limited.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

A Sheriff Interposes

Dear Sheriff: I have heard of your past involvement on protecting a local farmer’s distribution of raw milk to food co-ops from Federal overreach and the actions of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agents. Can you remind us of the details?

Answer: On December 1, 2011, I received a call from a farmer in Elkhart County who had a dairy operation that was part of a share herd for a food co-op. A food co-op is an organization that the public can pay a fee to join. In return, the member receives food grown without genetically modified features and preservatives. A share herd is a private contract between the farmer and the co-op so that the members can obtain raw (unpasteurized) milk.

I don’t drink raw milk because it’s not convenient for me. However, if I lived on or near a farm, I’d have no problem drinking raw milk. Many of our parents/grandparents drank raw milk and survived. There are risks with raw milk, but careful handling and storage will mitigate the risk. Many people believe that raw milk is healthier to drink than the pasteurized version. There is no law in Indiana that prohibits the distribution of raw milk in this fashion. In short, I don’t believe the government should be our nanny and telling us what we can or cannot drink/eat.

This farmer said he was having problems with the Federal government. Specifically, the FDA was inspecting his farm without a warrant as much as every two weeks. Typical inspections occur annually. The Department of Justice (DOJ) had subpoenaed him for a Grand Jury in Michigan in which he was to bring his production documents. The Feds wanted to make this farmer an example.

My research concluded that no one was getting sick from this distribution of this raw milk. It appeared to be harassment by the FDA and the DOJ, and making unconstitutional searches, in my opinion. The farmer told me that he no longer wished to cooperate with the inspections of his property.

I sent an email to the trial attorney of the Department of Justice: “I understand that you have made recent requests to (the farmer) for documents and to appear before a grand jury, and he has had a number of inspections and attempted inspections on his farm within Elkhart County. This is notice that any further attempts to inspect this farm without a warrant signed by a judge, based on probable cause, will result in Federal inspectors’ removal or arrest for trespassing by my officers or I. In addition, if any further action is taken by the Federal government on (the farmer), while he is in Elkhart County, I will expect that you or Federal authorities contact my office prior to such action. I will expect you to forward this information to your Federal associates, including the FDA.”

On December 6, 2011, the farmer received a certified letter from the DOJ dismissing him from appearing at the Grand Jury. Now, over four years later, the FDA inspectors and the DOJ, have not returned to the property since I interposed for the farmer. Some have suggested it was my interposition that caused the Feds to stand down. I have no way of knowing this for sure, but the evidence would suggest so.

Your local elected officials to include Commissioners, County and City Councils, Mayors, Police Chiefs, State Reps and State Senators, Governor and Sheriffs can stem the tide of Federal overreach if they apply just a little backbone in supporting and defending the Constitution. Expect it! Demand it!

Some bloggers and natural food writers have hailed me as a hero. I’m no hero. I’m just doing my job. Whether you are conservative or liberal, I will be a guardian of the Constitution for you, and will not  stand idly by while the rights of citizens of my county are trampled, whether by criminals or an overreaching government.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Booby Traps, Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground

Dear Sheriff: To protect my property, whether a home or a business, can I set up a booby trap system that could potentially harm or kill the intruder?

Answer: No! Deadly force can never be justified merely to protect property, whether you are present or not. To justify the use of deadly force, the suspect must have the opportunity and ability to harm, placing you or someone else in jeopardy of death or serious bodily injury. If you or others are not on the property, this opportunity and ability for the suspect to harm is not present. A booby trap will get you prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Don’t fall for it.

Question: Can you please explain the Castle Doctrine in Indiana?

Answer: The Castle Doctrine is part of the American common law derived from the English system. Under English law, a person’s home was his castle. In the home, individual rights are to be at their highest: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” (4th Amendment to the Constitution)

As the U.S. Supreme Court has stated in Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 585 (1980), “the physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed.”

Indiana code 35-41-3-2 says in part, “… the general assembly finds and declares that it is the policy of this state to recognize the unique character of a citizen's home and to ensure that a citizen feels secure in his or her own home against unlawful intrusion by another individual…”

A person is justified in using reasonable force, including deadly force, against any other person; and does not have a duty to retreat (Stand Your Ground); if the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry of or attack on the person’s dwelling, curtilage (close land immediately surrounding it), or occupied motor vehicle. A person has no duty to retreat in these locations before using force, up to and including deadly force, in self-defense.

Remember, the force needs to be reasonable. Just as is applicable to police conduct, in what will take seconds or less for you to make this decision, the police, prosecutor, and jury may have days and weeks to weigh your reasonableness. Training is a desired element for the civilian.

The Castle Doctrine sets up both a defense against criminal prosecution and civil immunity from liability for the use of force against an intruder in the home. The justification for the use of force — and the prerequisite for the successful assertion of a successful self-defense or civil immunity claim — is generally an unlawful entry into the home accompanied by a reasonable belief that the intruder has committed or will commit a crime in the dwelling.

In 2012, the Indiana self-defense law was changed, permitting citizens to use reasonable force (not necessarily deadly force) against unlawful intrusion into their homes, curtilage, or occupied motor vehicles by any person, including public servants. This law altered the landscape of the Castle Doctrine by extending legal protection to those who would use force against the police.

Many feared this would result in police killings as they did their legal tasks. In a separate future column I will deal with the topic of using force against the police in the context of the Castle Doctrine.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

School Resource Officers

Dear Sheriff: How does the school resource officer (SRO) program work in Elkhart County schools?

Answer: In exchange for placing one SRO in each of the four school districts of the unincorporated areas of the county (Baugo, Fairfield, Northridge, and Concord), the school districts and the Sheriff voluntarily enter into an agreement for law enforcement services wherein the school pays part of the cost for the officer. The school provides office space and other reasonable resources as necessary to carry out the SRO duties in their assigned districts. The school board may elect to discontinue the SRO program at any time.

The SRO is on duty during normal school hours in the schools of the district while school is in session. During the holidays and when school is not in session, the SRO resumes regular law enforcement duties as determined by the Sheriff.

The SRO is full-time and wears their Sheriff’s Department uniform during the school schedule. While on duty the SRO is armed and will patrol within the district’s buildings and grounds. The SRO is a specially trained and self motivated individual having several years of police experience and has demonstrated the ability to effectively communicate with youth.

During school hours the SRO is assigned to school district grounds except for the following: Follow up home visits when needed as a result of school related student problem issues, school related off campus activities when the SRO’s participation is requested by the school and approved by the Sheriff, responding to emergency law enforcement activities, attending Sheriff’s Department training or other administrative duties.

The action of building relationships with students, faculty, staff, administrators and parents is perhaps the single most important activity for the SRO. The quality of trust generated by relationships an officer develops on their “beat” is directly proportional to their success. This is particularly true with the SRO. Positive relationships yield great results in the solvability of criminal acts, the prevention of crime, successful drug interventions and the ability to effectively address non-criminal student needs. The SRO provides and facilitates student mentoring in a non-adversarial manner.

When law enforcement is present in schools the potential for violence is greatly reduced. The SRO gathers information regarding potential problems such as criminal and gang activity, student unrest, and the identities of particular individuals who may be a disruptive influence to the school and/or students. Based on the information gathered, the SRO works with the schools’ staff in providing law enforcement resources and response regarding on-campus related criminal activity.

The SRO collaborates with school staff to provide programs of law, safety and education related issues to the students and parents. Based on the needs of the schools, the SRO may develop and deliver specialized lesson plans on such subjects as date rape, sexual assault and predators, rights and responsibilities of a citizen, effects of alcohol and commonly abused drugs, first aid and CPR, just to name a few.

The SRO also provides resources for school staff on topics related to violence prevention, gangs, safety, and security. The SRO assists school officials in emergency response, pre-planning, and review. The SRO tests security measures in place and works with administrators to identify and improve weaknesses.

The SRO serves on the assigned school’s administrative team as a communication liaison between the school and the Sheriff’s Department, providing information on students and campus safety as permitted by law and the school’s policies.

When criminal activity is suspected, the SRO takes appropriate actions consistent with Indiana law, department regulations, and common sense. The SRO does not act or make recommendations as a school disciplinarian but can be involved in assisting with intervention programs for a student.

As Sheriff, I will continue to partner with school districts for safety and education through the SRO program.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Teen Alcohol and Drug Use; Perceptions and Reality

Dear Sheriff: How many teens use alcohol and drugs in Elkhart County? What is the norm? Why does the Sheriff’s Department and schools no longer provide negative consequences of drug and alcohol use, such as a mock fatal crash scene involving prom attendees?

Answer: When you hear about teenagers hanging out together, what do you picture? Do you assume that alcohol and other drugs are present? If so, you aren’t alone. Many of us are understandably concerned about teenage drug and alcohol use. We know that substance abuse can lead to devastating outcomes. But just how widespread is the problem? Is teen drug and alcohol use the norm in our community?

For the past 3 years, the Elkhart County Drug-Free partnership, of which the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department participates in, has surveyed thousands of teens in our region to ask what they think. And in  general, teenagers believe using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are the norm among their age group. High school students believe 64% of their peers smoke cigarettes. They believe 69% use marijuana. And they believe 75% drink alcohol. Are they correct?

Our anonymous, validated survey also asked each student about his or her own behavior. The results may surprise you -- Most of our teenagers are making good choices about substance use! In the 30 days leading up to the survey, 87% of the high school students did NOT smoke, 76% did NOT drink, and 83% did NOT use marijuana.

If you are concerned about whether students told the truth on the survey, research shows that anonymous surveys like this one have a very low rate of dishonesty, and our data is professionally analyzed at Northern Illinois University, where inconsistent responses are excluded from the reports.

Why the huge difference between what Elkhart County teens think is the norm and what is actually occurring? One big factor is how we talk about youth and substance abuse. We care about the issue, and we want to protect teenagers, so we often focus on the tragic situations that occur when teenagers choose to use, such as fatal crashes during prom season. We forget to let them know that being drug and alcohol free is actually normal. This is a problem, because believing that most of their peers are using can lead teens to feel pressured to begin using themselves. If we want to prevent teen substance abuse, we must let them know the truth.

The Drug-Free Partnership has launched a social norming campaign called Positively Elkhart County. Social norming is a process of trying to close the gap between perception (“Everybody’s doing it”) and reality (“Being drug and alcohol-free is the norm here”). The program works with students in schools throughout Elkhart County to share the reality that teens aren’t alone when they choose not to use.

This year, Positively Elkhart County is working in Baugo, Concord, Fairfield, and Middlebury Community Schools. Students from the Elkhart Career Center are also participating, designing posters and other messaging materials. We hope to bring the program to all junior high and high schools in Elkhart County over the next few years.

But Positively Elkhart County also needs your help. We asked junior high and high school students who they find most believable when it comes to information about alcohol and other drugs. Who came out  on top? Parents and other adults such as coaches, teachers, ministers, nurses, doctors, cops, etc. Friends and the Internet were not generally considered to be trustworthy sources of information. So even though it may appear that teenagers aren’t listening to adults, know that they are. What we say matters. Please help us share the truth with the young people in your life: Being drug and alcohol-free is the norm in Elkhart County!

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing  Sheriff Brad Rogers

Jury Duty

Dear Sheriff: I have had to serve on a jury, and while someone needs to do this, I lost 3 days of income and the few bucks that we are told is our pay doesn't come close to what I lost. It’s hard to not get upset at a judge or lawyer who's making money by the barrel load telling me it's my duty when I can't afford to miss work. What happens if I don't complete and send in the jury questionnaire? And if I receive a summons calling me for jury duty, what happens if I don't show?

Answer: The 6th Amendment to our Constitution says, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right of speedy trial and a public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have committed…” The 7th Amendment provides for a jury in civil trials.

Everyone always wants to get out of jury duty, but they often don’t consider what if you are the defendant? Would you want an intelligent and willing peer, or a person that doesn’t care and will not have the ability to analyze the facts of the case?

There are a number of rules in Indiana entitled “Jury Rules”

Indiana Jury Rule 4 authorizes a judge to order a person to appear for jury duty and provides the method for doing so. If you don’t complete a jury form, likely you will be called for jury duty anyway. If you have not filled out the jury form, you are usually directed to do so by the bailiff when you arrive. If you refuse to complete the form, you may be held in contempt of court by the judge.

If you fail to appear for jury duty the juror would be in direct contempt of court and could be arrested and sentenced to up to 6 months in jail. However, just as an attorney who is found in direct criminal contempt for failure to appear, jurors are typically provided with an opportunity to explain the reason for their absence. One judge I spoke to has never had to punish a juror in 7 years. Often, the juror is just rescheduled and appears after realizing the judge means business.

There are judges in Elkhart County who have put people in jail for a day or two for failure to appear and sometimes the reluctant juror is ordered to sit through an entire trial. Direct contempt is immediately punishable without formal pleadings or right to advisement of counsel. The judge could possibly authorize community service as a sanction. Any jail time ordered for direct criminal contempt is served without any good time credit as a criminal sentence would be.

There have reportedly been instances in the past where the jury pool was exhausted during jury selection in the courtroom and the judge would order the Sheriff (or his deputy) to go out and find jurors on the street and bring them, whether willing or not, before the court to be a juror. The Jury Rules appear to support this action, but it hasn’t been done since the 1970’s.

I know what you’re thinking. How can compulsory jury duty, with threat of jail, be constitutional? Yet, the constitution requires a jury for those accused of a crime. A bit of a paradox it seems.

Jury service is one of the obligations of citizenship in a Republic and the inquirer should appreciate they live in such a country and not one like most countries in the world where a judge or panel of judges decide the case, usually in the government’s favor. If you were the accused, what type of jurors would you like to have on your jury?

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

911 Dispatchers

Dear Sheriff: Can you tell us what it’s like being a 911 Dispatcher?

Answer: When you call 911, before you speak to any police officer, firemen or paramedic, you communicate with a trained professional who is often out of sight and mind until you need them: a 911 dispatcher. “Dispatch” is the life-line for callers and police/fire/EMS. Before I was Sheriff, I was a parttime dispatcher for a short time. The following is from the view of a 911 Dispatcher:

I never know what the next incoming phone call will be. Dispatchers must be flexible enough to go from trying to calm a mother whose child was just hit by a car, to someone requesting to check on an abandoned vehicle. In any given day, we can talk to someone that is losing their home to a fire, someone that was just in a car crash, or a parent frantically searching for their missing child. Every dispatcher takes "that call"; the call that sticks with us or the day we will never forget.

October 18th, 2007, started out like any other day. The sky was blue and the sun was shining...but that was about to change. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Nappanee. I activated the tornado siren, and less than a minute later, a patrolman was calling me on the radio to indicate there was a tornado on the ground. That tornado ended up being an F3 tornado that tore through the city. It is difficult to describe the feeling of what it is like to be behind the radio and dispatch police, fire and EMS throughout the city, while not knowing how many people are injured. Although that night, and many long days that followed, were nothing short of chaotic, the outpour of support from the community and neighboring emergency services is something I will never forget.

One afternoon, I answered the phone and I could immediately tell that I had a very upset caller; her husband had just committed suicide. There was nothing we could do to help him, so I kept her on the phone and talked to her until help arrived. She kept asking me, over and over, “Why?” Unfortunately, we don't always have all the answers, and we aren't always sure what to say. Sometimes all we can do is send help and offer sympathy during the few minutes we have our callers on the phone.

While answering phone calls, we are also multi-tasking. These duties include, talking on the radio to police/fire/EMS, keyboarding information into the computer for police, sending backup for a police officer needing help, and giving first aid and CPR instructions to callers that are waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Two dispatchers are on every phone call; one to speak to you and the other to listen and send the appropriate emergency services your way.

Even though we answer some really tough phone calls, we also get to be part of some happy moments. The moment we hear the relief in the voice of that parent who had just found their missing child, the moment we hear the first cry of a baby that we just helped deliver, or the moment that someone takes a breath after we have been instructing someone to do CPR.

A funny moment from years ago was when a resident from a local senior center called 911 to sincerely report a true crisis: her kitchen light bulb was burned out. We notified and “dispatched” the center’s maintenance man and the “emergency” was averted.

Thanks to all dispatchers who help us in our time of need when we dial or text 911. Special thanks to one of our very own 911 dispatchers, Stacey Bryan, who assisted me with today’s column.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

Pepper Spray and Self Defense

Dear Sheriff: I’m not comfortable in carrying a firearm or having a firearm in my car or home. Is there advice you can give for protecting me apart from using a firearm?

Answer: Although I am a strong advocate for a citizen’s right to own and possess firearms, I also support the right of people not to own and possess firearms, if they so choose.

One of the ways that a person can obtain knowledge and skills for self defense is to learn and be proficient in some form of martial arts. There are a variety of local businesses in the area with different arts to choose from.

In addition, the Sheriff’s office frequently offers a free course for women on Rape Aggression Defense (RAD). Send me an email if you wish to receive more information or to be placed on a waiting list.

Of course, any of this training requires that you are in good physical shape and conditioning thereby limiting some readers of this column.

The most effective less-than-lethal tool on the market for civilians is pepper spray, also known as OC Spray (which is short for the official name of Oleoresin Capsicum). In the early 1990’s I brought pepper spray to Elkhart County law enforcement and initially trained the officers. Today, pepper spray continues to be a viable use-of-force option for police officers in the area.

In Indiana, the carry and use of pepper spray by civilians is legal (except places like airlines and courthouses). Pepper spray can be purchased on-line, at most local gun stores, or even at larger retail establishments in the area. I recommend the cone-shaped spray pattern as opposed to the stream pattern for more effective results.

Pepper spray has its advantages over such tools as a baseball bat, knife, or brass knuckles. With pepper spray you don’t have to get close to the assailant. You can spray from 4-6 feet away whereas other tools will require you to have physical contact with the suspect. Pepper spray may not be the best tool when the attacker has a firearm, as they may still be able to shoot you.

To use pepper spray, merely spray it in to the face (eyes, ears and nose) of the assailant. Pepper spray, is a severe irritant that provides a burning sensation, inflames the mucous membranes and causes the eyes of the suspect to involuntarily close. The minor inflammation gives the attacker the impression that they are choking or cannot breathe, although it does not close off the airway. With the eyes and respiratory irritation, it typically takes the fight out of the aggressive person, allowing you to flee or call 911. Unlike CS or CN gas (typically applied in a military setting), pepper spray is safe and has never been known to cause injury or death.

Sometimes pepper spray is marketed with different percentages of Oleoresin Capsicum, or Scoville heat units (SHUs). I wouldn’t worry about the different doses available on the market, as most pepper spray on the market is an effective self defense tool. I can speak from experience, as I’ve been sprayed with a number of different types and manufactures of pepper spray. They all seem to work. I jokingly describe the sensation as “bobbing for French Fries in hot oil.”

The sensation will persist for about 45 minutes, maybe longer for those with fair skin. As a first aid measure, use copious amounts of cold or tap water. You can even speed the first aid process up by using “no tears” baby shampoo on the face and about the eyes which helps wash away the oily resin. Then, place the sprayed face in front of a fan or air conditioner, while providing fresh air.

To keep yourself out of trouble, you must always use pepper spray defensively; never offensively, in horse-play, or as a joke.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

Gun Control Laws

Dear Sheriff: I know you are a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and have taken a stand against additional gun control laws. No one is coming after your guns. No one is doing away with the Second Amendment. Why do you have to be so unbending about gun rights whenever there is a massmurder? With the recent Oregon mass murder, why can’t you support reasonable gun laws to keep guns out of criminal’s hands?

Answer: The problem with “reasonable” is it’s only reasonable when more laws are passed that lead toward infringing law abiding citizens’ rights to purchase or carry firearms, appeasing the pro-gun control (they now call themselves the pro-gun safety) crowd. Additional laws would not have prevented the murder in Oregon and other mass murders. Allow me to give you a little hint: Criminals do not obey laws.

Let’s take a look at “reasonable”. Our president, and other left-wing gun control advocates, cannot tell us what law or laws — short of an unrealistic and complete universal confiscation of guns — would have stopped any of the mass shootings that recently occurred.

Let’s first start with our President’s statements. “In 1996, when Obama ran for the Illinois State Senate, he was asked if he supported legislation to “ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns.” He answered simply, “yes.”

In 2003, he said “While a complete ban on handguns is [at present] not politically practicable, I believe reasonable restrictions on the sale and possession of handguns are necessary to protect the public safety.”

After the Oregon mass murder, the details were not even known when President Obama took the TV to politicize the murder. “We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours---Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.” So we know there are ways to prevent it.” Great Britain and Australia have both banned and confiscated firearms. Our president is clearly comfortable with the idea of forced confiscation.

Senator Dianne Feinstein said on 60 minutes in 1995, regarding assault weapons, “If I could’ve gotten 51 votes in the Senate …for an outright ban, picking up every one of them-Mr. and Mrs. America turn ‘em all in—I would have done it.”

So, don’t tell me that no one is coming after American’s guns. It is clear that some politicians want gun control for ultimate confiscation. So, it’s the unbending rhetoric by anti-gun persons, after tragedies such as in Oregon that cause this sheriff, and many Americans, to be inflexible about gun rights and the need to respond to anti-gunner’s nonsense.

It is time for “reasonable” dialogue on removing gun free zones for areas that have children, such as public schools. To have our children, our greatest treasures, go unprotected and who are waiting victims while our president, governors, mayors, and VIPs are protected by firearms is unconscionable. Gun free zones are kill zones. Mass murders occur in gun free zones. Experience has shown murderers and terrorists fear persons who conceal carry and will disrupt the murderer’s success.

Government was instituted to protect the right of your self-preservation; life, property and liberty. Politicians have no right to talk to us about security if they will not defend your inalienable right to selfpreservation.

President Obama has said, "Our gun supply leads to more deaths.” I have an idea. If you are anti-gun, quit talking about your “reasonable” gun control. Every time the president speaks about gun control, and the executive orders he will write to bypass Congress, sales of firearms skyrocket, placing more firearms in the hands of Americans!

Guns are the great equalizer for potential victims of violence. Americans will always have guns and we will always have evil people who will do evil deeds with guns, knives, or bombs.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Handgun Licenses

Dear Sheriff: If you are a Constitutional Sheriff, why do you still issue handgun licenses, and not merely recognize the Second Amendment as our license?

Answer: I am a proponent for “Constitutional Carry” in Indiana. The state legislature needs to repeal the law on handgun licenses for this to occur. I provide the service of processing handgun licenses because Elkhart County residents travel to other areas and will need their handgun license in other jurisdictions.

Question: How do I obtain a license for the legal carrying of a handgun in Indiana?

Answer: State law requires a handgun license if you carry a handgun on your person or inside your vehicle. You don’t need a license to have a handgun at your home or place of business. Indiana’s handgun license allows for open or concealed carry.

State law governs the procedures for handgun licenses. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and not have any felony convictions. Misdemeanor convictions on charges of domestic battery, violence or serious drug and alcohol abuse may prohibit a person from obtaining a license.

To receive a license through the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department, a person must reside in an unincorporated area of Elkhart County. Residents of a municipality need to go through their city police agency. A resident of another state, if employed full-time at an Elkhart County business, also may apply at the sheriff's department.

Prior to visiting the sheriff's or municipal department offices, the online application must be completed, and applicable state fees paid, at https://firearms.ariesportal.com/. Upon completion of the online application, the applicant must have his or her fingerprints taken. This can be done manually at the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department or electronically. The electronic fingerprinting is done through L-1 Identity Solutions, Inc, which is available at several locations in the area. There is an additional fee for electronic fingerprinting and can be arranged by appointment at 1-877-472-6917 or online after finishing the application.

Local fees to apply for a license are paid at the Sheriff’s Department: $10 for a four-year license; $40 for a lifetime license with a current state handgun license; and $50 for a lifetime license without a current state handgun license. The sheriff's department accepts cash, personal check, money order or credit/debit cards. There is a small convenience fee for using a credit or debit card.

Licenses may not be renewed more than 180 days prior to expiration.

All applications are subject to a waiting period of up to four weeks for the completion of a criminal history. At the conclusion of the background check, the records division will electronically submit to the state our recommendation to approve or deny the application. In some cases, the application is denied due to an applicant failing to list all previous criminal convictions, which will cause delays in the approval process.

If the applicant's fingerprints were taken manually at the sheriff's department, the applicant is responsible for sending a copy of the application and the fingerprint card, and state fees to the Indiana State Police for processing. If the applicant had their fingerprints submitted electronically this allows the State Police Firearm’s Division to receive them immediately, which expedites the processing time.

States honoring Indiana handgun permits: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

You should note that Illinois does not honor an Indiana license.

For more information regarding an Indiana Handgun Permit, please visit the Indiana State Police website.

 Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

Craigslist Safety Tips

Dear Sheriff: Can you please provide Craigslist sellers or buyers with tips on staying safe during transactions?

Answer: You can get really good deals through on-line sales, such as Craigslist. However, as with any on-line selling there are risks--so many, in fact, that I would recommend against using Craigslist. You can be a victim of fraud and you can easily get caught up in a scam if you are not wise or educated to the dangers. Here is advice from the professionals:

When posting photos do not show anything that identifies your home or address. You don’t need thieves to show up and steal the items before you have a chance to sell them.

When selling vehicles blur out or cover license plates from the photos. Otherwise, revealing the plate number will be a potential source for thieves to find out where you live.

When possible arrange to meet in a well lit and well traveled public place. Consider using the parking lot or the lobby of a local police or Sheriff’s department or a location that you know utilizes a working surveillance system, such as a major shopping center.

Never go to the exchange alone. When conducting the transaction one party should remain at a distance from the buyer/seller as to avoid being an easy victim. If you must go alone give a friend or family member the information on what you are doing, where you are going and whom you are meeting with such as their name, phone and email.

Cash deals only. Checks and money orders are easily forged or canceled. Count the cash and ensure it all looks legit. Closely scrutinize large bills. If you conduct business via Craigslist often, obtain a currency pen, the same as retailers use, to check if bills are counterfeit.

If the items you are looking at are priced too good to be true it is a scam or the merchandise is likely stolen. Don’t even contact the seller. A $20,000 tractor for $2500 is a scam. Buyers should know the values of the items they are seeking.

Any request for shipping is a scam. Any request (usually via text or email) you receive that is not specific to the item being sold by you is a scam. Read the safety guidelines posted by Craigslist.

Never accept overpayment, which will follow with a request to return funds. Again, this is a scam. This will never turn out good.

Before you take possession of the item you are purchasing make sure the serial number is intact before the transaction is complete. Stolen items typically have the serial number removed or scratched out.

Snap a photo of the seller (or buyer) with your cell phone as they arrive to the transaction. Even a photo of their plate or vehicle would be helpful if you do become a victim. If they ask why you are taking a photo of them or their vehicle license plate, just tell them it is your policy to keep everyone safe. But, don’t take offense if they do the same to you. If you don’t want your photo taken, then don’t conduct business on Craigslist.

If you become a victim it can be very embarrassing, but the police cannot work for you to bring someone to justice and possibly get your money back unless you report the crime. We won’t “pour salt in the wound” by chastising you. Let us serve you by reporting the crime and let us investigate it.

Thanks to my Detectives Jim Smith, Ray Caples, Cam McDowell and Mike Daly for contributing to this column.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Funeral Processions and Passengers in the Bed of a Truck

Dear Sheriff: Can I pass a funeral procession, going the same direction on a roadway? What about going in the opposite direction of the procession? If I’m late for a meeting can I hop on the end of the procession to get through the traffic control lights quicker?

Answer: A local radio talk show host recently posed these questions, albeit in an entertaining fashion, and there were a variety of public responses which were non-factual. So, let’s settle this here. The law says nothing about passing a procession going the opposite direction, except that you need to yield to the procession. When you see people stop in the opposing lanes, it is partially out of respect and the need to yield. However, the law does not specifically say you need to stop. On a two lane road, I slow down or stop in case the procession may turn near me (very much how I react to an emergency vehicle responding toward me). Another reason to stop seems to have been lost in today’s society and that is stopping out of respect for the procession, if it can be done safely.

The law says a person who drives a vehicle that is not in a funeral procession may not drive the vehicle between the vehicles of the funeral procession, except when authorized to do so by a police officer or the vehicle is an authorized emergency vehicle giving audible signal by siren.

If you are traveling in the same direction as a funeral procession on a multiple lane highway a vehicle may pass a funeral procession on the procession's left side if the passing can be done safely. This seems to suggest that passing the procession on a two lane roadway is not allowed.

A person who drives a vehicle that is not a part of a funeral procession may not join the procession or form a procession and have headlights lighted for the purpose of securing the right-of-way granted to funeral processions. Thus, if you are tempted to join in on a procession just because you are in a hurry, it’s a good way to receive a citation. Plus, the act is not respectful to those who are in the procession.

Question: While driving a pickup, can I have passengers legally in the bed of the truck?

Answer: No. Even though many of us remember a time when we rode in the bed of a truck, the state law on passenger restraint now prohibits this. I say jokingly, “How did we all survive such an era!” Today, every passenger must have a seat that has a restraint system.

There seems to be a misconception among those who drive and ride in pickup trucks that their large vehicles will protect them more than other vehicles in crashes. But the numbers say otherwise. Sixty-three percent of pickup truck occupants who were killed were not buckled up. That’s compared to 43 percent of passenger car occupants who were killed while not wearing their seat belts. Regardless of vehicle type, seat belt use is the single most effective way to stay alive in a crash.

Some would argue that government should not be in the business of telling us to wear seat belts. If it was the Federal government creating the law, I would agree. However, this is a state law and states can make such laws if they so choose and I believe the state passenger restraint laws are Constitutional.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Burglary Prevention

Dear Sheriff: I’m concerned about burglaries that are occurring in Elkhart County. Can you provide tips as to what the public can do to prevent burglaries at home?

Answer: A typical home burglar will break-in only if they can reasonably know that there will be no confrontation with the occupants, neighbors, or police. The average burglar will spend about 30 minutes in your home, seeking out the best items to steal, either to use or re-sell, often to supply a drug habit.

People are your best defense. It amazes me how people don’t know their neighbors on either side or across the street. You don’t need to be best friends, but get to know your neighbors. Let anyone walking the neighborhood or sitting in a parked car see you watching them. Make a note or take photos of car license plates. If anyone behaves suspiciously or stays in their car for a lengthy period, call the police.

Tell close neighbors you trust if you plan to be away or expect any deliveries. If they’re in the know they’re more likely to notice something you didn’t mention and spot unexpected visitors at your home (burglars often call at the front door of a house to check if anyone is there).

Motion detector lights help deter criminal activity. If you are going away for a long time, use timers to switch lights on and off at random, cancel newspapers and put a hold on your mail deliveries or arrange for a trusted neighbor to collect them.

Keep your doors locked, even when you’re home. Be careful about who you allow into your home and how much information you give about your belongings and schedule. This applies even with neighbors you don’t know or fully trust (“inside” jobs are not uncommon). Don’t post on Social Media where and when you are going on vacation, at least until you return. Don’t hide a key; crooks seem to know all those “secret” places.

Having a dog that barks is a huge deterrent. Some smaller dogs tend to be nervous and less easy to trick into calming down; they’re less trustful and bark louder and longer.

Look for the weakest link in your security, like leaving a window open in a secluded spot. Add keyed window locks, toughened glass or dead bolts on high-risk places including the door from your garage into the house, back doors, side “breezeways” where a burglar would not be seen. Remove large shrubs close to the residence where thieves could hide.

Fake video cameras and fake alarm stickers are often ineffective; the bad guys often know the difference. Motion-activated cameras are a powerful weapon, both as a home burglary deterrent and, linked to a computer to record images of your unwelcome visitors. These days, these devices are inexpensive. Network-linked cameras costing around $85 can even email images so you have an off-site backup. Install an alarm system, or at least a system that will alert your phone with motion detected video footage. Then, you can call the police.

Avoid creating temptation. Don’t leave things like lawn mowers and bikes unattended outside; lock them up. Inside, burglars are more likely to go for “middle of the road” valuables than expensive jewelry  and appliances — because they’re easier to redeem for cash. Don’t store valuables in the top dresser drawer or between mattresses. Get a good safe—that can’t be carried away--to lock up firearms, cash, jewelry and other valuables.

Lastly, before a loss of valuables via fire, natural disaster or crime, take a video inventory of your household now, with particular attention to serial numbers of firearms and electronics. The police will not only be able to return your stolen item upon recovery, but often will be able to make an arrest as a result of the information you provide.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Process Servers and Passing at Intersections

Dear Sheriff: Please explain what a Sheriff’s Process Server does.

Answer: In my continuing series of explaining the responsibilities of a Sheriff, one of the duties is to serve papers (technically called “serving process”) issued by the courts of Elkhart County. The Sheriff has several full time and part-time process servers who work 37.5 hours a week, each serving from 40-60 papers a day.

In 2014, Sheriff’s Process Servers delivered a total of 43,544 papers. With 9 different courts in the county, and the process originating from outside the county, that is a lot of paperwork!

The types of court papers which are served included: Small claims, complaints and summons, garnishments/child support withholdings, divorce papers, protective orders, no contact orders, subpoenas, hearings regarding child support and paternity notice, Interrogatories (a written question that is formally put to one party in a case by another party and that must be answered) and request for immediate possessions (landlord/tenant).

The paperwork from the court is delivered each business day to the Sheriff’s office and Process Servers sort by geographic areas of their individual delivery areas within the county. With 440 square miles in the county, this is a big task. Each day, their route varies depending on the paperwork to be delivered. The paperwork needs to be left with a person at the residence address or, if no one is home, it can be fastened to the front door. When a court paper is posted at the address or left with someone other than the addressee on the papers, the Sheriff’s office will mail a copy of the paperwork to the addressee. Protective Orders need to be served in person and several attempts will be made to do so.

Although most of the people my Process Servers encounter are pleasant, some problems that Process Servers daily come across are dangerous animals, angry persons receiving papers, and inclement weather. Process Servers will not enter fenced areas or enclosed porches, particularly when notice of a dog is present.

Once the delivery is completed, the Process Server returns a notice to the court, explaining the method of delivery and who was served. Delivery of the court paperwork needs to be completed expeditiously and accurately so as to ensure the citizenry has proper and timely notification from the courts and, in turn, the courts have accurate information from the Sheriff’s office that the process has been properly delivered.

Why not deliver everything by mail? Because, the law stipulates that the delivery of court papers, in most cases, is important enough that a Sheriff’s employee deliver the paperwork to the recipient. Additionally, a recent study by my office indicated that sending all these documents via certified mail would cost more than the current method.

Question: Can I legally pass another vehicle at an intersection?

Answer: If you are passing the other vehicle on the left (on a two lane road), the law says that you cannot pass at an intersection. So, even if the pavement markings indicate otherwise, you should never pass another vehicle on the left at an intersection, often a cause of crashes at intersections.

On a two lane roadway, if you are approaching another vehicle from the rear, which is turning left at an intersection, and you wish to pass on the right, you may do so, if the passing can be done safely and can be done without driving off the roadway. So, if you are passing on the right and going off the road onto the unpaved area, or passing a vehicle that is not turning left, you are doing so contrary to the law. You should always be aware that passing on the right has inherent hazards; you may not be able to see a left turning vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Deadly Force

Dear Sheriff: Why don’t police officers, presented with deadly force, try to shoot for the knees instead of vital areas of the body that could cause death?

Answer: Although some people can be rather cavalier in their talk about shooting someone in self-defense, the last task an officer ever wishes to do is shoot someone. However, because we love our community, police officers are willing to put themselves in harm’s way, including risking their own lives by running towards what most people will run from, that of a deadly conflict and the use of deadly force to defend them or someone else.

Police officers (and civilians) can use reasonable force, up to and including deadly force, against another person to protect themselves or a third party from death or serious bodily injury. The suspect sets the tone for the action. Every moment that a suspect is using deadly force, someone could be killed. The officer wields the “sword” to protect us all from lawlessness.

A police officer is not trained to kill, but rather stop the deadly force. We train to target the torso or head of the person, containing the most vital organs for life, not because we desire to kill someone, but rather to stop the use of force now, not seconds later. Granted, by targeting these larger and easier to hit areas, death is a great possibility. However, once the suspect’s use of deadly force stops, the officer’s use of force should stop. Officers then transition to securing the suspect and provide first aid.

Even with extensive training, an officer’s accuracy of shooting a firearm can deteriorate in a high stress situation such as deadly force. Officers in a deadly force encounter may experience tunnel vision, auditory exclusion (fancy term of the officer so focused on the threat they don’t hear their own gun being fired), and decreased manual dexterity, all of which may affect the accuracy of shooting a firearm. In cases where an officer used restraint in a deadly force encounter and attempted to merely wound an arm or a leg, it resulted in a suspect’s deadly force continuing and often results in the death of the officer.

Question: I’m awakened by an intruder breaking into my house at night and end up shooting them inside the residence because they were about to attack me. However, they leave and collapse on the front sidewalk. Is it true that I should drag them back into the house so the shooting is justified?

Answer: Don’t complicate the situation by tampering with evidence of the scene. Leave everything as it is unless you are administering first aid to an injured person. A civilian’s actions, like a police officer, will be scrutinized to ascertain if the shooting was justified. Officers can examine the scene and determine what happened. If you attempt to move evidence to make it appear something else occurred, it’s not going to bode well for you.

Question: Someone is breaking into my backyard shed where I keep expensive tools and equipment. Can I legally shoot the unarmed thief?

Answer: No. Deadly force can never be justified merely to protect property. To justify the use of deadly force, the suspect must have the opportunity and ability and you or someone else is in jeopardy of death or serious bodily injury. So, just like someone merely beating on your front door does not justify you shooting them through the door, someone breaking into your shed or stealing your bicycle from your yard does not justify the use of deadly force.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Sheriff Sales

Dear Sheriff: Please explain how Sheriff’s Sales work, how a person can tour a house, bid on a house, and if I buy a house what are my responsibilities?

Answer: When a home foreclosure occurs, there is due process in a court involving the lending institution and the homeowner. Eventually, if the court orders judgment for the foreclosure a court order is sent to the Sheriff to sell the property. The Sheriff’s employees then begin the process of setting up the Sheriff’s sale of the property.

Notice of sale is published, in the Goshen News, once a week for three consecutive weeks with the first publication occurring at least 30 days before the scheduled sale, and a copy served to the homeowner at the time of the first advertisement.

A listing of properties for sale is posted at www.elkhartcountysheriff.com. Persons interested in purchasing a house at the sale are responsible for having a title search completed to be sure there are no other liens against this property. The Sheriff does not and cannot act as a real-estate agent and does not have detailed property descriptions available other than the legal boundaries published with the notice of sale. The Sheriff has no keys to the property. No tours of the house are provided. The property is being sold “as-is”. No express or implied warranties should be construed to be given by the Sheriff’s office.

All bidders should be aware federal or state liens may become the responsibility of the purchaser. While the Sheriff’s sale and issuance of a Sheriff’s deed to the purchaser will eliminate and clear claims of lien holders specifically named in the complaint against the original mortgage holder, the Internal Revenue Service has 120 days from the date of the sale to redeem the property.

The sales are held, in most cases, on the last Wednesday of each month at the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, 26861 CR 26, Elkhart, at 10:00 am. Follow the signs on the day of the sale. Doors open at 9:45am. Anyone, except the Sheriff and his employees, can bid during the auction. Bidders do not need to register in advance.

At 10:00am on the day of the sale a representative for the plaintiff (typically a lending institution) may enter a bid for each property. Once plaintiff bids are entered, anyone can bid at least $1.00 more before 11:00am. If someone turns in a bid of at least $1.00 more on properties the plaintiffs bid on, they will go to auction at 11:00am. All bids are final and irrevocable.

In the case of a third party sale the buyer has until 3:00pm the day of the sale to bring a certified or bank check for the full amount of the sale to the Sheriff’s department. Personal checks are not accepted. The order, the result of the sale and the money are all sent back to the court for distribution. Neither the Sheriff nor the Sheriff’s department keeps any of these funds.

A deed is processed by the Sheriff’s department, within days of the sale. If a third party won the bid, the deed is mailed to them for recording. If the plaintiff wins the bid, the deed is sent directly to the County Recorder for recording.

In some cases sales are cancelled, sometimes in the last minutes prior to a sale. Possible reasons include the owners may have caught up their payments at the last minute, the owners may have filed bankruptcy, or the bank could not finalize their paperwork.

You are responsible for getting into the property after purchase. Again, we have no keys. If there are still people in the house you purchased then standard eviction procedures must be followed. Eviction is a civil matter settled by a court.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Dear Sheriff: What do you think of civil asset forfeiture laws?

Answer: Criminal asset forfeiture and civil asset forfeiture are different in their scope and constitutionality, in my opinion. Criminal asset forfeiture is seizing property from persons who have been convicted of a serious crime, defendants are allowed due process, and the forfeited property was typically involved in the carrying out of the crime.

An example of criminal asset forfeiture is when a drug dealer is dealing out of his car and the police seize the car because it was involved in a criminal act. After conviction and due process (which allows the defense to argue against forfeiture), the judge rules that the car be seized and the government take ownership of the vehicle. Criminal asset forfeiture is constitutional.

Civil asset forfeiture, on the other hand, is the act of government seizing property without criminal charges and without due process, often merely on hunches and without probable cause that a crime has been committed. Although currently permitted throughout the nation and currently legal, civil asset forfeiture is not constitutional, in my opinion.

Civil asset forfeiture is often carried out on highways, airports, during IRS investigations, and other government investigations. The burden of proof now rests with the person whose property is seized instead of the government proving a crime has been committed. Wait, I thought it was the government that was to prove their case, and you are innocent until proven guilty? Not in civil asset forfeiture.

“Americans are often perplexed when they hear of civil forfeiture's flipped burden of proof because they were taught that in our legal system the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Under civil asset forfeiture, however, it is the property, not the person, that is seized — which explains why the cases have odd names such as The United States of America vs. $100,000 in Cash. Once the property is seized, its owner must prove innocence before the property is returned.

“Under federal law, all deposits of more than $10,000 must be reported to the IRS. Since many money laundering operations and drug traffickers skirt the law by making deposits under $10,000, this has become a crime. Most law-abiding Americans are unaware of such a law, assuming that making deposits into their own bank account violates no law.

“Government officials do not actually have to prove any guilty intent by the person making the deposits; they simply work off assumptions”, often leaving the person with hefty legal fees and expenses that the government has no intention of paying, even if the government is later found in error.

“Increasingly, innocent American citizens are faced with the dilemma of either fighting the government seizure of their assets (which would most likely cost more than the amount seized) or simply letting the government keep the money. The problem of civil asset forfeiture is now so serious that the Canadian government has warned its citizens not to carry cash into the United States, because U.S. officials do not presume innocence, but rather guilt when it comes to the money. And this is not about pocket change. Over $2.5 billion has already been confiscated from Canadians traveling inside the United States.” –The New American magazine, May 19, 2015.

Legislators at the federal and state levels should take action to end such practice and criminalize these acts by government officials involved in such civil asset forfeiture. Law Enforcement officers and government officials should end such practices of civil asset forfeiture now! This Sheriff refuses to participate in this unconstitutional government action.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Operating While Intoxicated

Dear Sheriff: How many drunk drivers are arrested by Sheriff’s deputies each year? How many crashes per year are alcohol related fatalities from alcohol? Can you be impaired if your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is below .08%? Can I be arrested for driving while impaired with drugs? What about prescription drugs? How do I avoid arrest if I’m going to drink alcohol?

Answer: There are some critics of alcohol impairment laws that believe if a person does not harm anyone, then it’s ok to drive a vehicle while impaired. In other words, the impaired driver should only be arrested if there is a crash or some type of property or personal injury. No harm, no foul, they say. This thought process wrongly deduces, if someone fires a gun into a crowd of people, but no one was hurt and no property damaged, the shooter should not be arrested. The state laws take into account activity that endangers the public to preemptively prevent injuries or death. The threat of alcohol and drugs (legal and illegal) in our community through impaired and dangerous driving is a serious threat to your family.

There is hardly a person alive today that does not know a family member, friend, church member  or fellow employee that was impacted by a crash involving an impaired driver. Lives impacted forever.

In 2014, Officers from the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department took 606 criminal cases for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). Most of these cases resulted in the immediate arrest of the drivers. A small amount resulted in the eventual arrest and charging of drivers in certain circumstances (i.e. driver was injured in a crash or other reasons). In 2013, there were 438 OWI cases investigated by officers.

In 2014, 3 out of the 14 fatal crashes reported in Elkhart County had a contributing circumstance of alcoholic beverages. Nine collisions resulted in incapacitating injuries that reported alcohol use.

Impairment is the deterioration of judgment and the decrease in physical abilities. While making arrests for OWI, my experience is that a driver often does not realize they are intoxicated or impaired. I have often heard many an impaired driver say, “But officer, I agree with what you are doing in getting drunks off the street, but I’m not drunk!”

Under Indiana law, a driver may be arrested for OWI if they are between a .05 - .08% BAC and the officer can prove impairment. We often see impaired drivers with a low alcohol content that have taken legal or illegal drugs that, due to the combination of drugs and alcohol, their impairment is pronounced. If an officer can prove impairment, whether caused by alcohol or prescription/illegal drugs a driver can be arrested.

There are too many factors to take into account that include weight, age, metabolism, etc. to ascertain how much alcohol you drank and when you are safe to drive. A self-assessment of impairment is not recommended to determine whether or not you can safely operate a vehicle. If you drink alcoholic beverages, use drugs, even prescription drugs that can affect your judgment or physical abilities, it is best to avoid driving. Remember, your judgment is impacted by your intoxication. You may fool yourself in believing you are ok (like the many drivers I have arrested), when you are really impaired.

My advice? Use a designated driver, call a taxi or friend. Make the decision now while not impaired, not after you drink alcohol. If you choose to drink any alcohol, don’t drive.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Roger

Sheriff's Posse

Dear Sheriff: Please explain how a Sheriff’s posse works and if you would use a posse today.

Answer: The Sheriff’s “posse comitatus”, which is Latin for the “power of the county” or “possible force”, originates from old English law. The phrase should not be mistaken with the “Posse Comitatus Act” which I’ll explain later. During serious crimes, the Sheriff could muster men to assist the Sheriff in tracking and apprehending the criminal(s) or maintaining the peace. Hundreds of years ago, it was a citizen’s duty, at least for able-bodied males 15 years and older, to heed the call of duty with their weapons, to assist the Sheriff and to serve on the posse comitatus.

In the United States, the posse comitatus was utilized in the early western frontier, where it was later named “posse”. The posse would operate under the direction and authority of the Sheriff to properly bring criminals to justice.

However, sometimes men would form vigilante groups often called a posse, but without the Sheriff’s authority and approval, and would pursue criminals such as cattle rustlers or bank robbers, meting out justice without due process, and sometimes at the end of a rope.

In modern times, a posse comitatus was used in 1977 in Aspen Colorado when the Sheriff called ordinary citizens, with their own firearms, to hunt for mass murderer Theodore “Ted” Bundy.

Many states have modern posse comitatus laws, including Indiana, which gives any Sheriff the power to “suppress breaches of the peace, calling the power of the county to the Sheriff’s aid if necessary”. (IC 36-2-13-4)

After the Civil War, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 was passed to prohibit the use of federal troops to enforce reconstruction policies in the southern states. The act prohibits the U.S. Army to enforce laws unless Congress explicitly authorizes such use. The Act was later amended to include the Air Force and in the 1980’s to allow the use of military resources to combat drug trafficking across international borders.

Except for drug trafficking, the military today is generally not to be used for domestic law enforcement purposes in the United States, but can be utilized for search, rescue, and disaster mitigation. There are a few limited exceptions, one being the Indiana National Guard under the direction of the Governor. In 2006, the law was changed again to allow the President to use the military to restore order in a disaster or terrorist attack when local resources were incapable of doing so.

Today, the situation would have to be desperate for a Sheriff to call the power of the county to his aid. Due to our litigious society, the liability to the county would be at risk if untrained individuals were deployed at the Sheriff’s direction, and as a result someone was improperly arrested or force was wrongly utilized.

The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Reserve unit would be my first step in calling out the modern day posse. The reserve unit is highly trained volunteers that are properly equipped with the appropriate authority and clear direction of the Sheriff. Although I would not rule out ever calling the county to my aid, the need would have to be critical, the direction clear and the authority appropriately limited so as to mitigate the liability and avoid a usurpation of your Constitutional rights by untrained persons.

If you are a mature person with good character, have a desire to serve the community and you would like to join my Sheriff’s reserve unit, please contact me.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Tribute to Deputy Jerry Webb

This week I deviate from the normal question and answer to pay special tribute to my Deputy Jerry Webb, a 37 year veteran of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, who died in an off-duty motorcycle crash on April 18, 2015. His wife, Leigha, was seriously injured in the crash and is recovering. Leigha’s strong faith and will to recover from her injuries are very evident.

When I was hired onto the department in 1987, Jerry was already a 9 year veteran deputy. Jerry’s reputation was one of a solid officer, pushing newer officers to be highly trained. Jerry was most concerned about officer survival. As a young officer I looked up to Jerry and he taught me many skills that helped me stay safe and get where I am today.

Jerry had firsthand experience with officer survival, being the only Elkhart County Sheriff deputy ever to be shot in the line of duty by a suspect (at least in contemporary history). Jerry was wearing his bullet resistant vest, rarely worn by officers in those days, and saved him that fateful day. To this day I wear my bullet resistant vest to continue the example Jerry set, that an officer owes it to their family to always wear their vest while wearing their uniform.

The suspects were eventually captured. It was determined that the shooter and other suspects were going to rob the grocery store at Simonton Lake. After the incident Jerry was very forgiving toward the suspect that just tried to kill him.

Jerry was one of only a handful of master police instructors in the state, certified by the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy to instruct in a variety of firearm types, emergency vehicle operations, Taser, PepperBall, OC (pepper) spray, handcuffing techniques, defensive and physical tactics, edged weapon defense; and was a Glock, Remington and Colt Armorer.

Jerry helped design and build the present Sheriff’s outdoor police range, where multiple police agencies in Elkhart County regularly train. He helped pioneer innovative training for officer survival, including offhand drills, firearm malfunction drills, weapon retention, and combat training.

Jerry was a member of the Sheriff’s Emergency Services Unit and attended many tactical training schools and taught any officer who desired the skills. Jerry had amazing skill with any firearm and was clearly one of the best shooters, if not the best, in the department. He held a number of firearm skills awards. Jerry wrote many training outlines and programs, many we still use today. Nearly every officer on the department today was trained in some form or fashion by Jerry. He was a guiding light and mentor to many of the patrol and corrections officers today.

Jerry was a people person and was always willing to help anyone. He had a reputation of good public relations, which made him particularly popular while a patrol officer and most recently as a court security officer. His concern for people was sincere and his compassion for those who were hurting or in need is unsurpassed.

Jerry began his service to the department and community on June 1, 1978. During his service, Jerry’s work spanned from corrections, patrol, warrant service and training. He held many roles that included jail captain, jail sergeant, corrections officer, patrol officer and training officer. I am thankful for the training and example Jerry set.

Jerry Webb, a true Sheriff’s deputy, a true peace officer and a true servant. Jerry will be missed.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Importance of Oath of Office

Dear Sheriff: You recently were given the “Oath of Office” once again to start your second term as Sheriff. Please explain what the Oath of Office means to you.

Answer: My oath of office states, "I, Bradley D. Rogers, do solemnly affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Indiana, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of Sheriff of Elkhart County, Indiana, according to the law, and to the best of my ability, so help me God."

This oath stems from Article VI, Section 3 of the United States Constitution, requiring all public servants to take this or a similar oath. So, if you are a public servant, such as a Sheriff, Judges, Mayors, County/City Councilman, Chief of Police, Auditor, Treasurer, State Representative, Senator, Congressman, or the President of the United States, you are required to take the oath of office. As we approach an election season, the importance of the oath of office would be a good topic to vet on any local candidate.

Nowhere in that oath does it say I will write speeding tickets, keep a jail, arrest bad guys, and investigate crimes or respond to traffic crashes. Sure, those are all duties outlined in state law for the Sheriff and his deputies as we serve and protect. But, the oath is the most important element that all public servants should remember, particularly when societal trends seem to be setting up government officials to do otherwise.

There is a misconception among some law enforcement officers and the public that officers are just here to enforce the laws. In other words, there is a general expectation that we officers are supposed to check-our-mind-at-the-door and enforce any law regardless how unjust, oppressive or clearly unconstitutional a law is. This is not accurate. Nowhere in this oath does it require any law enforcement officer to enforce all laws.

This oath is meant to provide a “checks and balance” in our system of government. Our founding fathers knew there would be people who make mistakes, maybe even evil men, who would attempt to usurp the Constitution. When every public servant takes a solemn oath, then our Constitution has built-in safe guards at all levels, not just at the legislative and judicial levels.

In fact, the officers today have a great deal of discretion on enforcing laws. For example, officers enforce traffic laws daily. However, officers often give warnings, rather than a citation. In other words, an officer chooses not to enforce the law by not "arresting" someone. The action can still be beneficial to the community, by bringing attention to traffic safety. If all laws must be enforced without discretion, officers would never be able to give warnings and officers would not be able to make decisions that would divert persons from the criminal justice system. For example, an officer may choose to take a person home that was found in a state of public intoxication but not causing any trouble. There is no contempt of the law in either of these examples.

In the past, oath of office ceremonies or “swearing-in” ceremonies were completed with little fanfare and importance, sometimes allowing the employee to take the oath with no witnesses and signing the paperwork with a cheap pen with a plastic flower attached. Since taking office, my command staff and I attend every oath of office ceremony, while providing pomp and circumstance to the event in the Elkhart County Circuit Court with the judge giving the oath. Family, friends and media are invited to allow witnesses and publicity for this important and solemn occasion.

How do your elected officials treat the oath of office?

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Never Receiving a License and Under-body Lights

Dear Sheriff: I see in the media where people are jailed for “Failure to Present Operator’s License”. Should I be worried if I forget my driver’s license at home and do not have it to present to the officer that stopped me for a traffic violation?

Answer: No, you should not be worried. The media sometimes uses the wording “Failure to Present Operator’s License”, when in fact, what the persons are arrested for is “Never Receiving an Operator’s License”. I will explain the difference.

Never Receiving a License makes operating a vehicle on the roadway a Class C Misdemeanor if the driver has never received a license. (I.C. 9-24-18-1) Because it is a Class C Misdemeanor, the violator has the potential to be incarcerated for the charge. However, incarceration is unlikely if you are cooperative in providing the information the officer needs for the citation. If the officer receives the information they need, and can reasonably determine the information is reliable, a citation can be issued in lieu of incarceration. Citations are issued most of the time for this type of violation.

What gets people into more trouble in this situation is lying to the officer, providing a false name or address, or being generally evasive or uncooperative. In those cases, the officer typically has no choice but to incarcerate the violator and allow the jail booking process to determine the true identity of the violator.

On the other hand, operating a vehicle without license or permit in possession is a Class C Infraction. (I.C. 9-24-13-3) However, the law goes on to say that a person may not be convicted of violating this section if the person, within five days from the time of apprehension, produces to the officer or the officer’s department that they had a permit or license at the time the officer stopped you.

With today’s technology and ability to retrieve your driving record from the Dispatcher or the in-car computer, forgetting your driver’s license is not likely to result in a ticket, as long as you provide your name, address, and date of birth to the officer. Although it’s still good to carry your driver’s license with you at all times, don’t worry if you happen to find yourself in a forgetful mode and end up driving without the actual license in your possession.

Dear Sheriff: Are under-body lights on a vehicle legal?

Answer: There are several color and flashing light restrictions. If you consider the intricacies of the exceptions, you should be ok.

Blue Lights are intended for members of a volunteer fire department on private vehicles and can only be displayed en route to an emergency. (I.C. 36-8-12-11)

Flashing green or green and white lights are authorized for paramedics and EMTs on their privately owned vehicle while traveling on emergency medical services activities. (I.C. 9-19-14.5-1)

Except for an emergency vehicle or funeral escort vehicle, a vehicle or equipment upon a highway may not display a red, amber, red and white, or red and blue light visible from directly in front of the center of the vehicle or equipment. (I.C. 9-19-14-5.5, 9-21-7-10)

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

One Day in the Life of a Patrol Officer (Part 2)

Dear Sheriff: Can you describe an actual account of a patrol officer’s shift?

Answer: Patrolman Chad Hoien is my deputy on the 2pm-10pm shift. We worked together on today’s column and the details below are provided and told by Ptl. Hoien. The calls are real and occurred in one  day. The names and locations are omitted to protect identities.

Now, part two of “one day in the life” of a patrol officer:

I was checking on an elderly male in ill-health who had not been seen for quite some time. I had entered through the unlocked front door after observing the TV on, overflowing mail in the mailbox, and a car in the garage with no tracks in the driveway of week-old snow.

And then I found what I was hoping not to see. I located a body in the bathroom of the house. He had been deceased for about a week. No matter how often I deal with death and severe injuries this is not the type of call I ever grow accustomed to.

I had to call my supervisor to the scene, who had already been extremely busy throughout the day, working a fatal crash and then responding to the industrial accident. The worst part of dealing with this particular death was the fact that no family could be found in the area. One of the most difficult tasks to do as a police officer is to give death notifications. In this particular situation I had no choice but to contact distant family by phone and inform them that their loved one had died.

While still on scene my supervisor had to leave and responded to a hit-and-run crash north of Elkhart, which incidentally was the result of an intoxicated driver and another call with a fatal crash was dispatched near New Paris. At this point off-duty officers had to be called out to assist with the fatal crash. My supervisor could not respond to this particular crash, as is typical, as he was arresting the intoxicated driver from the hit-and-run crash.

During this time frame, there were no officers to respond to several reports of intoxicated and reckless drivers called in to the 911 Center. Other officers had to come from their own zones to cover other calls in my zone.

At about 9pm I was able to clear the scene in my death investigation. The end of the shift was finally in sight, although I knew I had a lot of paperwork to do. I had not had anything to eat all day; I decided to try a drive thru, but then another call came in.

The other zone officer and I were dispatched to a family fight. All family members were intoxicated and fighting. So after each of us dealt with death that day, the other officer and I had to settle down the family before the situation got any more out of hand. At 10pm, we cleared the domestic fight. The next shift was finally on duty!

I no longer needed to respond to calls but there was still a lot of work to be done. Before I could start on my death investigation paperwork, I had to complete the crash report from the day before. I called my wife and told her that I would not be home for a while. She was disappointed, but understood that this is part of the job. It takes a special woman to be the wife of a police officer. I finally completed all my paperwork and arrived home at 1:30am. I had not eaten since my shift started. I checked my refrigerator for scraps of dinner and fell into bed exhausted.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

One Day in the Life of a Patrol Officer (Part 1)

Dear Sheriff: Can you describe an actual account of a patrol officer’s shift?

Answer: Patrolman Chad Hoien is my deputy on the 2pm-10pm shift. We worked together on today’s column for “one day in the life” of a patrol officer and the details below are provided and told by Ptl. Hoien. I merely edited for brevity. The calls are real and occurred in one day. The names and locations are omitted to protect identities.

One day in January, 2015, I was the officer assigned to work the zone consisting of both Concord and Baugo Townships. Although we often have as few as six total officers working the county, on this day we had eight officers on duty and I was fortunate to have another officer working with me in my zone. Concord and Baugo are two of the busiest townships for calls.

When I came on duty I first wanted to get my paperwork caught up from the previous day which consisted of a crash report for a two vehicle crash with injuries. However, I was unable to get started on the paperwork as there were already several calls holding. The other zone officer and I were called to locate a psychiatric patient and take them to Oaklawn Hospital in Goshen.

An urgent call in my zone occurred while we are on this call; an injury crash in Baugo township. Since both officers in the zone were busy on the mental health call, the supervisor needed to respond to the crash which resulted in a fatality. The supervisor, and the rookie officer he was training, needed to work the crash with little assistance as all the other officers were busy.

After delivering the mental health patient, the other zone officer and I were preparing to attempt to serve a Felony warrant in our zone. However, before locating the suspect, the other officer was dispatched to a fatal industrial accident in the zone.

I continued to respond to several other calls in the zone over the next couple of hours. I did not have assistance from other units as they were busy dealing with their own calls including a domestic battery and auto theft arrest in another zone.

At about dinner time, I was dispatched to check on an elderly male who had been ill. The caller had advised that they had not seen the man in a while and they were concerned for his well-being. Upon my arrival at the home I observed the mailbox was overflowing with mail, a vehicle in the garage and the driveway had one week of old snow covering it and no tracks. I walked around the house looking in windows and checking for anything suspicious. I observed the television was on in the living room of the home.

I knocked at the front door—no answer. I checked and found the door to be unlocked. Normally, in this situation, I would call for a backup officer to assist me, but there was no one available. I identified myself and called out if anyone was home. No one answered. Because of the life threatening circumstances, I didn’t need a warrant. I entered the home. I then found what I was hoping not to see…

To be continued. Next time, Ptl. Hoien concludes with part two of his “one day in the life” of a patrolman.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Proposed Rate Increases for Officers

There have been a number of questions about a proposed pay increase for my deputies.

Dear Sheriff: Is a pay increase really necessary for your officers?

Answer:   Yes. In 2008, Elkhart County was impacted deeply by the recession. As a result, all department heads in county government were asked to cut or “flat-line” their budgets and employees understood there would be no raises until the economy improved. Only in the last couple of years was the county council able to provide small percentage increases to county employees.

However, the Sheriff’s Department was experiencing a less competitive edge on salaries even prior to 2008. But, due to the economy, not much could be done to correct that trend. Now today, my deputies are the lowest paid police and corrections officers in the area.

A great deal of turnover at the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department has resulted in employees leaving for higher pay. My staff has gone to incredible lengths to recruit, hire and retain quality employees. If an increase is not implemented soon there will continue to be an exodus of quality deputies leaving to seek better wages, taking with them the training and experience other police agencies find highly desirable.

The low pay also tends to attract less than desirable applicants, making hiring quality staff very difficult. Out of 42 applicants for patrol officer this month, only two applicants have gotten to the point where we would consider them for the ongoing selection process. I will continue to keep standards high, even if there is no one to hire.

Question: Where are you getting the money for these proposed raises?

Answer: The Elkhart County Commissioners, County Council and I have been working together as a team to facilitate keeping the Sheriff’s department a professional and stable agency, able to respond to calls and provide quality public safety and service.

In 2014, the County Council passed a public safety tax of 0.25% providing approximately $4.3 million/year to be utilized for building projects (such as a new juvenile detention facility), jail operations, and law enforcement expenses. The County Council controls the use of the money. I am merely asking for a small amount of those funds to provide my deputies with reasonable and competitive wages.

Question: Would Elkhart County deputies be the highest paid in the region after the wage adjustments?

Answer: No, in fact the base pay for deputies will be below the regional average. However, the wages will be competitive and provide incentives for officers who have specialized training and participate in specialized activities such as the SWAT team, crash reconstruction, Canine, Hostage Negotiator, Field Training Officer, SCUBA diver, training instructor, etc.

Question: Do County Officers have it less dangerous than city officers?

Answer: No. All law enforcement officers, regardless of the size of department, or the population they serve have dangerous calls. My officers respond to the same types of calls that higher paid municipal agencies do.

Question: With annexations, aren’t Sheriff’s patrol officers becoming obsolete?

Answer: No. 60% of the county population, or 102,578 people, live outside any municipal limits and expect Sheriff’s patrol officers to serve them.

Public safety is paramount to providing stability and growth in our county. My goal is to reduce crime, provide safe roads for travel, ensure a secure jail, care for inmates, and provide professional service the citizens and visitors to Elkhart County deserve and have come to expect.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Juvenile Detention Location and Family Visitation of Inmates

Question: The Juvenile Detention facility in Goshen needs a new location. Why can’t you utilize unused beds in the newer jail for these juvenile offenders?

Answer: On average there is anywhere from 11-18 juveniles in Juvenile Detention in Goshen on any given date. Due to innovations through the Elkhart County Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), great progress has been made in reducing the number of juveniles in detention and those being sent to the Department of Corrections.

Adult offenders, which also include youthful offenders who have been waived to adult court due to the seriousness of their crime, have different standards for incarceration than do juveniles who are being held in Juvenile Detention. Not only are there sight and sound separation requirements, there are also programming differences. Juveniles require different levels of supervision, recreation, education, counseling, and health care.

Each ward, or living area, in the newer jail has 48 beds. This is far more than is needed by current Juvenile Detention demands. In fact, millions of dollars in renovations would be required, including constructing a new intake entrance, to convert the jail to house juveniles. This process, would then in turn limit the future capacity of the jail.

The jail was built to be an adult jail and needs to stay an adult jail. Juvenile Detention should be a separate facility meeting state juvenile standards. It could be built on the same campus as the jail to allow collaboration of resources for food service, medical, laundry and other efficiencies inherent in having two facilities in close proximity on the same campus, including the use of methane from the landfill to heat the building.

Question: I know of an inmate who had a baby while in jail. The baby was placed with relatives for care. The mother is not allowed to visit or have contact with the baby while she is in the jail. Why?

Answer: I am very empathetic with the bonding processes that occur between mother and child. However, the advantages of bonding may be jeopardized anyway by the mother being in jail or prison for quite some time.

Understanding that video visits are far from ideal for the child, I have experienced that a child, regardless of age, can be a pawn in the security dynamics of a jail. Because a child, at the guidance of an adult, can be manipulated and have been used for trafficking drugs and contraband through a variety of means (mouth, clothes, diaper, etc.) to the inmate, I have a policy that avoids contact visits between children and incarcerated parents. It’s an unfortunate reality in today’s world, but the prohibition is in place for safety and security for the staff, visitors (including the children), inmates and the community.

We do allow for free on-site video visitation for any child and their parent in jail. In addition, children, family, friends, and attorneys can actually visit with an inmate from the comfort and privacy of home or office using our new remote visit technology. For a nominal fee, the visitor uses their computer and webcam/microphone to facilitate the connection to the inmate in jail. All on-site and remote visits must be scheduled 24 hours in advance.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Release of Information and Evictions

Dear Sheriff: During press conferences or interviews with the media you and your staff do not answer specific questions about a criminal incident or arrest and refer the reporters to the Prosecutor’s office. In years past, this was not always the case. It used to be the Sheriff would provide the details of the arrest and charge, including your officers’ efforts and how the case was developed. Why the change?

Answer: Over the course of time criminal law procedural rules have evolved to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system by safeguarding rights of those that could appear before a jury as the case goes to trial.

Because the Prosecutor is the hinge pin between police and courts for all criminal charges, the procedural rules focus the responsibility for the dissemination of information to the Prosecutor. Except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the Prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, those on the side of the police and prosecutors are to refrain from “making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the Prosecutor in a criminal case…”

The Prosecutor is ultimately responsible for prosecuting every criminal case. Therefore, the onus of the release of information after an arrest is the Prosecutor’s. So, the Sheriff acquiesces to this criminal law procedural rule in the interest of what’s best for the community and to ensure that justice is meted out appropriately, fairly and expeditiously.

The Sheriff will continue to provide information to the public on cases of public safety, such as suspects at large or threats to the community.

Dear Sheriff: How do I legally evict someone from a house or an apartment that I own without an attorney?

Answer: This is a question that officers receive often. You have provided a room for a friend to temporarily live for free or for rent, and have now decided that the people need to move out. Often, there is no signed contract. This can become a very tense and frustrating situation for all involved. The goal is to legally and peacefully evict the tenant(s).

If you can peacefully get someone to move out, you can do this legally without going to court. This will require the tenant(s) to voluntarily comply. The move-out time line is agreed to by the owner and tenant jointly. If the Sheriff’s office is called to keep violence, such as a fight or property damage, from occurring between you and the tenants, that’s not considered “peacefully getting someone to move out.”

Otherwise, you will need to file for an Order of Immediate Possession in small claims court. In Elkhart County, Superior Court 4 currently charges $121 to file. Fees are subject to change, so it is best to  contact the Court to verify current rates before filing. The applicant would complete a small claims packet at the court and this would be scheduled during the next available court date, usually within one month from filing.

“Immediate Possession” would allow the owner to take immediate possession of the property as ordered by the court. The judge may grant extra days for the person to move out.

I have an officer who handles Immediate Possession orders which can be enforced with the authority of the Sheriff.

If the property is in another jurisdiction, you will need to file the small claims action with the court in the county where the property is located.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Misconceptions of Body Cams (Part 2)

Dear Sheriff: I am excited to see the Sheriff’s deputies wearing body cameras. Finally, this will solve the issues of the officer versus the suspect in use of force questions.

Answer: In my last column, I explored some misconceptions of police body cameras (cam). Today, I continue with Part two.

Based on my officers’ and other departments’ experience, including the Force Science Institute (an agency which studies the dynamics of police use of force) the use of body cams is far from a panacea. Any of the below quotes will be from the Force Science Institute report.

The officer’s or suspect’s body may block the camera view. As with any camera, how much of the scene is captured depends highly on the “positioning of the camera and where the action takes place.” Body parts of the officer or suspect, or the position of the officer (behind cover or with a stance that is not facing forward) may hide what is really taking place. For example, a firearm in the hands of an officer with his arms extended in front of him may block the view of the camera and what the officer is seeing. “Critical moments within a scenario…may be missed entirely by the body cam”, hiding what a “reviewer may need to see to make a fair judgment.”

“A camera only records in 2-D. Because cameras do not record depth of field-the third dimension that’s perceived by the human eye-accurately judging distances on the video can be difficult. Without the proper sense of distance, a reviewer may misinterpret the level of threat an officer is facing.”

“One camera may not be enough. Sporting events have multiple cameras for referees to review on questionable calls. Ideally, officers deserve the same consideration.” Angles, lighting, and other elements can be clarified by other camera views synced together for a broader understanding of the dynamics of the situation.

“A camera encourages second guessing. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, an officer’s decision in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situations are not to be judged with the ‘20/20 vision of hindsight’.” Camera footage, as seen in contemporaneous events in our nation, can lead to conclusions without considering all the facts surrounding the case. Under calm and comfortable conditions, the video can be replayed many times, slowed down, freeze framed, and scrutinized for hard-to-see details. The officer, on the other hand, “had to assess what he was experiencing while it was happening and under the stress of his life potentially being on the line.”

“A camera can never replace a thorough investigation. A camera’s recording should never be regarded solely as the truth about a controversial incident. It needs to be weighed and tested against witness testimony, forensics, the involved officer’s statement, and other elements of a fair, thorough, and impartial investigation that takes human factors into consideration.”

In conclusion, The Force Science Institute says, “This is in no way intended to belittle the merits of body cameras. Early testing has shown that they tend to reduce the frequency of force encounters as well as complaints against officers.” Let’s just remember these misconceptions and know that the video is not always going to provide the clear picture some people were hoping for.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Misconceptions of Body Cams (Part 1)

Dear Sheriff: I am happy to see the Sheriff’s deputies wearing body cameras. Finally, this will solve the issues of the officer versus the suspect in any use of force questions. Thank-you!

Answer: I wish it was that simple! Public sentiment is developing that once every police officer is equipped with a body camera (cam), all controversy will be taken out of officers’ use of force and everyone will know “what really happened.” Based on my officers’ and other departments’ experience, including the Force Science Institute (an agency which studies the dynamics of police use of force) the use of body cams is far from a panacea. Any of the below quotes will be from the Force Science Institute report.

A camera can be knocked off of the body. Recently one of my officers was arresting a combative suspect and the officer’s camera was knocked off and removed from its power source during the struggle. Although both officer and suspect sustained minor injuries, the officer’s resulting force, needed to make the arrest, was not recorded on the body cam.

The camera does not see where the officer is actually viewing. The camera field is broad and does not indicate what the officer sees. The officer may be missing action that the camera is seeing because the officer’s eyes are looking elsewhere. Similarly, the officer’s peripheral vision, and his resulting perception of danger from the side, will not be visible on a camera.

Some important danger cues can’t be recorded. The officer’s perception of a threat could be different than the camera view due to an adrenalin rush and the resulting physical and psychological stress. Nuances such as the suspect tensing up when the officer touches the suspect to arrest them may not be visible on a camera. The camera cannot “record the history and experience the officer brings to the encounter.” Suspect behavior, although appearing harmless to the public, may convey a substantial risk to the experienced officer.

The camera view differs from the speed of life. Action is faster than reaction. In other words, the suspect’s action facilitates a reaction by the officer. Due to the scientific fact of the delay that any trained person’s reaction will be, “an officer can be half a second or more behind the action” as it develops on the video. The officer’s recognition of a threat, the use of force, the stopping of force, and overall decision making all take time, but obviously can’t be shown on camera. The public can make an errant judgment call on any video if facts other than what is on the video are not considered. Grand juries and investigators look at all the facts, not just the video.

A camera’s view may sometimes be “better than the officer’s view in low light.” Body cams can record in high definition and make automatic adjustments to the lighting to get the best viewing quality possible. When the video is viewed, you might actually be able to see details that were not visible to the officer at the time of the incident due to the low light. “On the other hand, cameras do not always deal well with lighting transitions. Going suddenly from bright to dim light or vice versa, a camera may briefly blank out images altogether.”

Next time, I will continue with Part two of the misconceptions of body cameras worn by police officers.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Meth Trash Labs

Dear Sheriff: Why is a discovered meth lab bagged and tagged by your deputy and left in place (ditch or field), sometimes for days, before it’s eventually picked up by some unknown person. Isn’t this a hazard to children and the community?

Answer: The term “meth lab” is loosely used these days. It is less common for officers to find a room full of beakers, Bunsen burners, centrifuges, graduated cylinders and precision scales; all the things you would expect to see in a clean and legitimate modern day laboratory.

Today’s “meth lab”, also known as a “clandestine lab”, can be as simple as a 2-liter or 20 ounce plastic soda bottle with a variety of chemicals and precursors used to manufacture Methamphetamine, using what is called the “shake and bake” or “one pot cook” methods. Meth "recipes" can be easily obtained through the internet or through networking with people who "cook" meth, and can use materials that are readily available to the public.

The materials used can be over-the-counter medications that include pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in their contents, combinations of volatile organic compounds, acids, bases, metals, solvents and salts.

Chemical reactions depend on the substances used and can cause an active lab to be a public hazard, frequently resulting in chemical fires, explosions, and the release of toxic gases. Police officers have found active or cooking labs in a vehicle’s trunk or in the back seat with children, in a backpack and on the back of a moped.

Each time meth is manufactured, there is substantial waste involved. Typically, what you might find along the roadway is what we call a “trash lab”. Waste may include: Packaging from pills containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine; empty containers from: starting fluids, camping fuel cans, lye or drain openers, paint thinner, acetone, alcohol, rock salt or Epsom salt; compressed gas cylinders or camp stove containers; glass containers or soda bottles with dried chemical deposits remaining; bottles connected with rubber hosing and duct tape; coolers, thermos bottles, or other cold storage containers; masks, and coffee filters.

Although containing hazards, very much like a disposed car battery can be a hazard to some people, the trash is not an active or cooking lab and there is no threat of fire or explosion.

When you discover any clandestine or trash lab, you should call 911 and let the professionals determine the hazards. In the case described in your question, the discovered items were a trash lab. Otherwise, the police would have taken immediate action to dismantle and dispose of the active lab, which is an immediate hazard to the community.

Sheriff’s deputies have no way to transport or place to take these items. Thus, we partner with the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Unit who is tasked with the mitigation, pickup and disposal of clandestine or trash labs. My deputy will tag the items with an orange hazard sticker and notify the State Police, who will often pick up the items within several days unless the trash lab location would require its immediate removal. Due to the number of trash labs found in our area, this is a very time consuming task.

In conclusion, a tagged trash lab bag, although containing items that could be considered hazardous, are not the degree of hazards we find in an active or cooking lab. The trash lab should not be disturbed but can wait for transport by the State Police Meth Suppression Unit.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Fatal Crash Investigations

Dear Sheriff: When there is a fatal traffic crash why is it necessary to close the roadway for up to several hours? This is very irritating. Clean up the crash and open the roadway already!

Answer: I wish it was that simple. A fatal or serious bodily injury crash investigation today takes on the form of a major criminal investigation; an investigation that occurs whenever something very serious has happened, but yet we don’t necessarily know how or why it occurred, who is involved (victim, suspect or witness) and how the victim died. There may be nothing criminal by nature in the crash. But, we don’t know until the investigation is conducted.

Whenever a family’s loved one is involved in a serious crash, I take the view that the event should be thoroughly investigated so that all questions are resolved. We don’t want the family, the media, the prosecutor, the courts, to say to us, “I wish you would have done more to thoroughly investigate this situation.”

When someone has lost their life in a crash, it is the Coroner’s responsibility by state law to determine the identity of the victim and the cause of death. The police must wait for the Coroner to arrive on the scene and complete his investigation before the victim is moved. The police and the Coroner work jointly to piece together the details of the tragedy.

In this day and age, the police are expected to get all the facts and investigate the root cause, what led up to the incident, and ensure that all evidence is gathered before opening up traffic and thereby contaminating the scene. This takes time. But we are sensitive that the roadway be opened as soon as possible. Once we open up to traffic and clear the scene, it is difficult to “go back” and find the information. We have one opportunity to investigate the scene of the incident.

Crash investigators are trained to thoroughly analyze the crash vehicles; their resting positions, paint transfer from one vehicle to another, whether a vehicle flipped or vaulted, damage consistent with the crash dynamics, and, in late model vehicles, retrieve the “black box” that aids in determining what the vehicle was doing pre-crash. Investigators will also examine marks/gouges in the roadway or adjacent property, damage to other property (fences, utility poles, guard rails), and skid marks prior to and after the point of impact.

All vehicles, damage, and evidence need to be photographed (video and still) from different angles and distances. The roadway will be analyzed for coefficient of friction, a fancy term for determining the grip of tires on the roadway, all of which can help determine speed of the vehicles. Then, all vehicles and evidence will be measured with the use of sophisticated measuring devices (very much like a surveyor uses today) to ensure that a scale diagram can be created of the scene. Later, all evidence and measurements will be analyzed by our accident re-constructionists and placed into algebraic formulas to determine the speeds of the vehicles, if possible. 

Not only can a fatal crash result in criminal charges, but also civil litigation. All evidence collected and analyses made from the police investigation will be used in these matters.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Who Made you Judge?

Dear Sheriff: Who made you judge over which law to enforce and whether a law is constitutional or not?

Answer: The fact of the matter is, neither the public servant nor the civilian should trust the government entirely in matters of law and law enforcement. The United States Constitution is meant to be read and understood by the common person. Sometimes there are gray areas and this process can take a great deal of discussion, legislative changes, and court hearings before a consensus is reached. Sometimes, that consensus can even change over time. However, sometimes, the concept of liberty is very clear based on the Bill of Rights (our first ten amendments).

The United States government, and even local government to a degree, is separated into different branches to ensure a “checks and balance” of power for our Republic. At the Federal level, we have three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The Legislative branch was intended to be the most powerful of all the branches of government. Nevertheless, by its design, each branch needs each other and keeps each other in check.

If the Legislative branch would pass a law that was clearly unconstitutional (for example, as the past discriminatory laws pertaining to the color of a person’s skin), the Executive branch (includes law enforcement) is not bound to enforce such laws, even before a court could rule the same. If a judge would issue a bizarre order of the court ordering the Sheriff to arrest someone because they have red hair, the Sheriff can determine for himself that the law is unconstitutional and not enforce it. Likewise, the courts and legislatures will rein in the authority of the police if they make a mistake.

There is a general expectation that we officers are supposed to check-our-mind-at-the-door and enforce any law regardless how unjust, oppressive or clearly unconstitutional a law is. This is not accurate.

An additional checks and balance in our government is The Oath of Office (Article 6, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution). Our founding fathers knew there would be people who make mistakes, maybe even evil men, who would attempt to usurp the Constitution. When every public servant takes a solemn oath, then our Constitution has built-in safe guards at all levels of government.

A reporter asked me “How can you (the Sheriff) be the judge over the law and choose which laws to enforce or not to enforce?” I answered with a question, responding that if the state legislature would pass a law prohibiting him, a member of the press, from printing a certain topic or from using a certain source, obviously against the First Amendment (Freedom of the Press), I asked him what he would do? He gave a thoughtful pause and said, “I’d print it anyway!” Smiling because I knew he got the point, I said, “Who made you judge?”

If you would like a copy of the Declaration of Independence/United States Constitution, free of charge, please come to the Sheriff’s office on weekdays from 8am-4pm at 26861 County Road 26, Elkhart, Indiana 46517 and ask for your copy at the front window. Please, one copy per person.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Why are the New Cars White and Why use Online Reporting

Dear Sheriff: Why are all the new Sheriff’s patrol cars white? What happened to the two-tone brown color scheme we were all used to?

Answer: When I took office in 2011 the economy was depressed in Elkhart County. The mantra from the County Council (who holds the purse strings for county government) was to save money in any area possible. The Indiana Sheriff’s Association agreed in 2011 that Sheriffs in the state could opt for white instead of the two-tone brown. Bottom line: I can save $1000 per car by going with white. Saving that amount of money is better than doing something merely out of tradition. I’ve had many people tell me they think the white Sheriff’s cars are rather stylish.

Question: Why is it mandatory for the public to file a report on-line for minor crimes? What should I expect when I file a report on-line?

Answer: I continue to seek ways to keep officers on the streets to respond quickly to emergencies and keeping the public safe with proactive patrols. Due to budget constraints and the reality of today’s funding of emergency services, we must do more with less. As a result, it has become necessary to require on-line reporting to report minor vandalism, minor thefts and fraud where there is no known suspect and the crime is not in progress.

With 35 patrol officers, responding to over 100,000 calls last year, I must strive for my officers to be more efficient in their efforts. On average, an officer spends nearly 60 minutes completing every vandalism and theft reports, which equates to less time an officer gets to spend on the streets. In contrast to the 1,500 vandalism and theft cases investigated by the Sheriff’s Department in 2013, there were only 187 reports filed on-line. By requiring on-line reporting for most of these, the time gained on the street should increase by over 1,000 hours.

Persons needing to report a crime are able to quickly and efficiently utilize the department’s easy-to-use on-line reporting system to file these types of criminal reports. Though on-line reporting isn’t new and isn’t a replacement for calling 911 in an emergency or when crimes are actually occurring, other benefits to using this service include no waiting for officers and more opportunities to file reports that might otherwise go unreported. This method is also great for people needing a report for insurance purposes only. Anyone wishing to report a minor crime can go directly to our website at www.elkhartcountysheriff.com and click on the link “Report a Crime Online”.

For those without internet access there are two options: Come to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Center at 26861 CR 26, Elkhart, Indiana, and obtain and complete the report in person or later by mail, or by calling the Patrol Division at 574-891-2300 to have the report completed for you via telephone Monday-Friday, 8am-4pm.

Regardless of how crime reports are received, information will be reviewed by a detective and shared with officers patrolling your neighborhood. Any follow-up will be done and we are committed to helping victims and prosecuting those responsible for crimes, when possible.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Inmate Communication

Dear Sheriff: How do jail inmates communicate to the outside world?

Answer: Inmates at a county jail need to be held in a fashion that communication to the outside world is generally allowed. This includes the U.S. mail, phone calls and visitation from attorneys, clergy, family  and friends. Approximately two-thirds of jail inmates are not convicted of any crime, but are only being held on a criminal charge, further punctuating the importance of allowing an inmate to communicate.

All inmates have access to the U.S. mail system, both for sending and delivery. All mail, except legal mail, is searched for contraband in the mail room prior to the inmate receiving their daily mail. Legal mail, from a court or an attorney, is searched for contraband in the presence of the inmate.

All inmates have access to making phone calls while incarcerated. If you receive a phone call from an inmate, you will receive a recorded message that the call originated from the jail. You can accept or refuse the call, with the option of never receiving calls again.

Due to the nature of the security concerns for a jail, all inmate phones are regularly monitored and recorded. You would not think that a bank robber would tell his girlfriend where he hid the money, but it happens. Criminal enterprises can continue from within a jail. Sheriff Deputies do their very best to prevent the incarcerated criminal from victimizing people in the community.

Because the inmates and the public are told that the calls are monitored and they are in a jail, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for the inmate. Thus, anything said on phone calls may be used against the inmate in an investigation.

Most jails have visitation where the public enters the secure part of the jail and inmates are moved to a visitation booth where a glass separates the two and a phone intercom is used for communication. However, in the Elkhart County jail the public never enters the secure section of the jail, but stays in the lobby. Inmates stay in their living area. The two are connected through audio/video for the duration of the visit and are also monitored and recorded. This system prevents contraband from being introduced into the jail during visitation. With this method there is no charge to the inmate or visitor.

Attorneys have personal contact visits with inmates. Ministry volunteers and clergy have some limited personal contact visits or programs with inmates. Attorney visits are not recorded or monitored.

By November 2014, family/friends will be able to visit an inmate from home if they have a web cam and high speed internet. For a nominal fee to family or friends, and scheduled in advance, this form of visitation is best for those situations where a visit to the facility is not convenient. For example, no available child care, the jail is a significant drive, or the weather is bad. With gas prices these days and the convenience of visiting your loved one from the comfort of your home, web visitation will likely be a popular option. Of course, these visits will be monitored for shenanigans.

Although the above methods are considered rights for inmates, there can be times when temporary restrictions are put in to place due to inmate misconduct or for the security of the facility. Watch our website at www.elkhartcountysheriff.com for more information coming soon about web visitation.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Indiana Knife Laws

Dear Sheriff:  What are the knife laws in Indiana?  Do I need to be concerned about my knife blade being too long?  What about carrying my knife concealed or in the open?

Answer:  With the 2013 legislative changes in the Indiana law that provides for the legal selling and possession of switch blades (knives that open with spring action via the push of a button), knife rights have taken a solid step forward in rational thinking and support for the Second Amendment for another type of “arms”.  Indiana is one of four states in the nation to abolish laws banning switchblades in 2013 along with Alaska, Texas and Kansas, according to the American Knife and Tool Institute.  Indiana’s switchblade ban began in 1957.

Some states require knives to be concealed and other states have blade length laws and may even limit the ability to carry a sword or a machete.  Indiana has no such limits.  There is no blade or overall length law in Indiana.  Wearing your knife on your belt or clipped to your pocket, whether totally or partially visible, or concealed, will not generally get you into trouble in Indiana, except on school property or where locally prohibited such as in an airport or courthouse. 

Keep in mind that laws against reckless behavior that endanger others are still in effect.  Using any edged weapon in the commission of a crime will boost the crime to a felony.

One edged weapon that continues to be a Class C misdemeanor in Indiana is the sale, manufacture or possession of a Chinese Throwing Star.  A Chinese Throwing Star means a throwing-knife, throwing-iron, or other knife-like weapon with blades set at different angles, according to Indiana Code 35-47-5-12.

Additionally, the possession, display, sale, manufacture of a knife with detachable blade, according to Indiana Code 35-47-5-2, is a Class B misdemeanor.  A knife with a detachable blade that may be ejected from the handle as a projectile by means of gas, a spring, or any other device contained in the handle of the knife is still illegal in Indiana.

Indiana Code 35-47-5-2.5 states that a person who recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally possesses any type or style of knife on school property or a school bus (or any bus used for school purposes) commits a Class B Misdemeanor unless the person is authorized, and the use of the knife is authorized, by the school corporation, or the knife is secured in a motor vehicle on the premises.

With the school restriction law, the absence of common sense seems to come into play with some school districts and police agencies in our nation.  The zero tolerance can border on the ridiculous and any violation should be considered on a case by case basis.  Just because a law has technically been broken, does not mean charges need to be filed or a student needs to be expelled. 

If a Boy Scout forgets and accidently carries his pocket knife into the school, he can be charged with a crime and/or expelled by the school administration.  A quick search of the internet will show you countless examples of expulsion for students “forgetting” about a small pocket knife. 

Whether its firearms or knives, know your rights as a citizen and defend those rights zealously or they may soon disappear. 

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Roger

Sovereign State

Dear Sheriff: How do you feel about state’s rights and Indiana as a sovereign state?

Answer: Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution provides for 18 tasks that are delegated to the Federal government by the states. Over the course of time the Federal government has developed into a behemoth of regulatory and expansive laws, challenging the concept of state sovereignty in many ways.

James Madison, in the Federalist (No. 39, at 245) stated, “Although the States surrendered (delegated) many of their powers to the new Federal Government, they retained “a residuary and inviolable sovereignty.” Clearly, the tenth article of the Bill of Rights provides for the individual states to be sovereign in their own right: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution…are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In 1993, President Clinton signed into law the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (also known as the Brady Act or the Brady Law) that instituted Federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States. This Federal law required Sheriffs to perform background checks on firearm purchasers or risk potential sanctions. Seven Sheriffs subsequently sued the Clinton administration.

In Printz v. United States (521 U.S. 898, 1997), it was argued that the Brady Law was unconstitutional because its provisions requiring Sheriffs to conduct background checks was a violation of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. In fact, during the lower court deliberations, Federal District Judge John Roll said, “[A Sheriff] is thus forced to choose between keeping his oath (of office to defend the U.S. Constitution) or obeying the [Brady] act, subjecting himself to possible sanctions.” The case continued to the United States Supreme Court.

In its 1997 decision in the case, the Supreme Court ruled that the provision of the Brady Act that compelled Sheriffs (and other local state and local law enforcement officers) to perform the background checks was unconstitutional on 10th amendment grounds. The court decision, delivered by Justice Scalia, further stated, “The power of the Federal Government would be augmented immeasurably if it were able to impress into its service—and at no cost to itself—the police officers of the 50 states.”

Interestingly, the Supreme Court’s dissenting opinion was given by Justice Stevens: “If Congress believes that such a statute will benefit the people of the Nation, and serve the interests of cooperative federalism better than an enlarged Federal bureaucracy, we should respect both its policy judgment and its appraisal of its constitutional power.” Justice Scalia referred to Justice Stevens’ comment as “empty formalistic reasoning of the highest order”, a polite way to say he’s full of baloney!

The Printz case finally and conclusively affirms and makes clear that the Federal Government may not compel the States, including your local Sheriff, to enact or administer a Federal regulatory program today. A victory for State sovereignty!

In other instances (such as in the example of the Affordable Care Act), State Legislators should take Printz seriously, while also considering another Supreme Court case: “We have held, however, that state legislators are not subject to Federal direction.” [NY v. US 505 U.S. 144 (1992)]

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Change in Moped Laws

Dear Sheriff: There seems to be a lot of confusion about moped laws among citizens and police. Can you help with information?

Answer: In 2014, the Indiana State Legislature passed a new law to help redefine and clarify the law on what was originally labeled motorized bicycles. Beginning January 1, 2015, the law designates two classifications for "motor driven cycles", or “mopeds” or “scooters” as they are commonly referred to by the public. There will be a Class A and a Class B with them each having a different color license plate. All owners will be required to register their scooters with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) for a fee of $17.30 plus a $10 excise charge.

Class A motor driven cycles will include all scooters with an engine size of 50cc or larger or have a design speed in excess of 35 mph. For example, a motor driven cycle with a 49 cc motor that has a design speed of 40 mph would be a Class A. All class A scooters require the operator to carry a valid motorcycle endorsement and insurance. Essentially, Class A scooters will have the same requirements as motorcycles do currently.

Class B motor driven cycles will include most scooters that we see today, many of which are operated by persons of low income, those who are too young to obtain an drivers license, and those who’s driver’s license was suspended for a criminal offense but still need transportation to employment.

Class B’s will have a design speed of less than 35 mph and have a motor size of less than 50cc. The operator will have to possess a minimum of a valid state ID card and will be required to obtain an endorsement on their ID by passing a written test at the BMV. Class B's will not be required to be insured. The minimum age to operate a scooter remains at 15, but all operators under the age of 18 will still be required to wear a helmet. Class B operators will not be permitted to have passengers. I believe this section of the law is a step in the right direction in that it requires Class B operators to take a written test, which will help with education and safety, particularly among young inexperienced drivers.

The new law raises the speed limit for scooters to 35 mph (from the current 25 mph, which I believe has always been unreasonable).

The BMV will not be issuing plates until January 1, 2015. My officers will allow a period of time for operators of scooters to comply with licensing requirements as the BMV will not be issuing plates in advance of the law taking effect.

The registration argument says that this new law helps keep people safe and will help law enforcement track down stolen scooters that have been regularly targeted for thefts by requiring that all be registered and to prevent thefts by making them more difficult to dispose of by thieves.

But registration really does not have anything to do with safety. As for scooter registrations, I think the true reason for this change in the law is to provide taxation through fees, to the tune of an estimated $1.6 million in additional revenue to the state of Indiana, hitting those persons who really cannot afford it.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Youth Program – Explorers

Dear Sheriff: Does the Sheriff have a program to allow youth the opportunity to ponder a career in law enforcement or corrections?

Answer: It was approximately June 1975; I was 14 years old and standing on the west steps of the Goshen courthouse with my right hand raised. Sheriff Dick W. Bowman administered the oath-of-office to approximately 20 youth in their teens. We were Junior Deputies in the Sheriff’s summer program that taught teens about the duties and responsibilities of a Sheriff. For me, the program affirmed my heart’s desire: To become a law enforcement officer; a servant of the people. Little did I know that I would one day work at this very Sheriff’s department and actually become the Sheriff!

The Junior Deputy program, along with the Cadet program designed for older youth was moth balled due to lack of funds and staff willing to lead the programs. When I became Sheriff, no program existed to encourage youth in a law enforcement or corrections career. I wanted to change that.

As a scoutmaster for a local scout troop, I became aware of a program through the Boy Scouts of America that allowed Sheriffs to sponsor a group of youth, both boys and girls that could “explore” the law enforcement and corrections career. Elkhart County Sheriff Explorer Post 511 was born.

Today, the program is alive and well with up to 20 youth participating at any given time. Dedicated sheriff deputies, both from patrol and corrections, lead the Explorer youth through a variety of training on seemingly endless topics such as firearms safety, K-9’s, handcuffing, jail security and safety, the Constitution, self-defense, criminal and traffic law, evidence, report writing, crime scene, patrol tactics, impaired driving, inmate booking and classification, proper and legal searches, and public relations.

The Explorer post has internal rules and regulations that require the youth to maintain good grades in school and require good conduct at the department, at school or at home. Their rank structure mirrors real-life command structure and provides for a youth-lead experience.

Although the Explorer youth are not actually deputies of the department, or have any law enforcement authority, they can experience the many facets of law enforcement and corrections with veteran deputies completing hands-on activities and training. As the Explorer matures, they may even be able to participate in a patrol ride-along.

Some Explorers have left the Post, recognizing that law enforcement or corrections were not the career choice for them. However, in the last month, I hired our first corrections officer that actually started in the Explorer program. Both examples are the intended results of the Explorer program.

The Sheriff’s Explorers meet in the evening, twice a month, throughout the year. An application process, including a background check, is required for selection into the program. If interested in becoming an Explorer and you are 14-19 years of age, send me an email and I will put you in touch with the proper deputy to get you started on your exploration of a career in law enforcement or corrections.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

ECSD National Accreditation

Dear Sheriff: I have heard that the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department is nationally accredited. Can you explain what that means?

Answer: Your Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department has been accredited by The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) since 1984. Elkhart County was the first Sheriff’s Department in the nation to receive this honor under Sheriff Dick W. Bowman. Every Sheriff since that time has continued the program to keep the department accredited and the standard high, including our eighth accreditation on November, 2011, under my watch. In August, we will once again go through the accreditation assessment process for our ninth accreditation, and strive for the ongoing honor of the Sheriff’s Department with the longest running continuous accreditation. We are currently the only accredited agency in Elkhart County.

During the 2011 awards ceremony, the department received a second award for Accreditation with Excellence. The Excellence award, created by CALEA, is a symbolic incentive for agencies to employ CALEA standards that sets the benchmark for public safety professionalism.

The accreditation program has become the primary method for an agency to voluntarily demonstrate their commitment to excellence in law enforcement. The standards upon which the Law Enforcement Accreditation Program is based reflect the current thinking and experience of professional law enforcement practitioners and researchers.

However, the accreditation process does not create a cookie-cutter philosophy. The process allows for each agency to have their own vision, emphasis on critical issues (such as my support for the Constitution) and solutions to unique problems, in accordance with the size and type of agency and the community service expectations where the agency is located.

CALEA accreditation requires an agency to develop a comprehensive, well thought-out, uniform set of written directives and requires a preparedness program so an agency is ready to address natural or man-made unusual occurrences. Accreditation is a means for developing or improving an agency’s relationship with the community, and strengthens an agency’s accountability, both within the agency and in the community, through standards that clearly define authority, performance, and responsibilities. Being accredited can limit an agency’s liability and risk exposure because it demonstrates standards for law enforcement have been met, as verified by a team of independent outside CALEA-trained assessors.

The accreditation process, the assessment of which only occurs every three years, is a ongoing process in the Sheriff’s office and throughout the department. The public benefits from this ever-vigilant state of mind in the department, from cutting-edge and updated policies and procedures, to rigorous guidelines and review for use-of-force and pursuits, to dissemination of public information, to ensuring that personnel abide by hundreds of standards that keep your department focused, well-trained, and professional.

No Sheriff could do the task of accreditation alone. My staff, including my command, supervisory and line staff, to my accreditation manager, Randy Cripe, a retired long time law enforcement officer  himself, are the facilitators behind the scenes. Their daily efforts and support for accreditation, guided by the Sheriff, is crucial for the success of this professional program.

On August 20, 2014, at 5:30pm the accreditation assessors will be conducting a public hearing and allowing comments at the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Center training room. I welcome your comments during this public hearing and at any time. As your Sheriff I will continue to lead and set the bar high on the standards and conduct for your Sheriff’s Department.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Fireworks

Dear Sheriff: What are the fireworks regulations for those living outside the municipal limits in Elkhart County?

Answer: Noise is a quality-of-life issue. Many neighborhoods can be plagued by the inappropriate and incessant use of fireworks, keeping families up at night and disturbing the peace. The County Commissioners, the legislative body at the county level, adopted a county ordinance in 2007 regulating the use of Consumer Fireworks, pursuant to state law authorizing them to do so.

Consumer Fireworks, defined by state law, include such items as: Aerial devices, which include sky rockets, missile type rockets, helicopter or aerial spinners and roman candles; Ground audible devices, which include firecrackers, salutes, and chasers; and firework devices containing combinations of the effects described above. Essentially, fireworks that will explode or fly uncontrollably through the air are in the category of Consumer Fireworks.

The ordinance allows Consumer Fireworks to be used between the hours of 5:00pm and two hours after sunset on June 29, June 30, July 1, July 2, July 3, July 5, July 6, July 7, July 8, and July 9. Between hours of 10am and Midnight on July 4, and between the hours of 10am on December 31 and 1am on January 1. If you reside in a city, please check with city officials, as their fireworks’ ordinance may be more restrictive.

Just because you are within an appropriate time for fireworks, does not mean you can shoot these fireworks over your neighbor’s home or property. Many calls for Sheriff Deputies are for this very reason. Be respectful of others’ property.

Consumer fireworks do not include: Dipped sticks, wire sparklers, cylindrical fountains, cone fountains, illuminating torches, wheels, ground spinners, flitter sparklers, snakes or glow works, smoke devices, and trick noisemakers including party poppers, snappers and trick matches. Total pyrotechnic composition may not exceed one hundred grams per item. Devices containing chlorate or perchlorate salts may not exceed five grams in total composition per item.

The use, discharge or ignition of all other “Fireworks”, is regulated and defined by Indiana Code 22-11-

14-1.

The county’s fireworks ordinance will be enforced by Sheriff’s Deputies and can result in a fine up to $500 per violation, not including court costs. However, there can be a more costly price to pay with fireworks: Injuries to friends, family and pets. In fact, last year a high profile criminal case involved a juvenile throwing a firework with a dog picking it up and causing serious injury to the pet.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated more than 26,500 fireworks-related injuries in 2013, including 10,507 emergency department visits. Children are susceptible to injury due to their lack of knowledge of the hazards that exist with fireworks. For example, a wire sparkler can achieve the temperature of 1800-3000 degrees, and yet often children are allowed to hold, waive, and often throw them. Forty-four percent of the patients treated in emergency rooms in 2012 were younger than age 20.

You can visit the Sheriff’s Department webpage for a firework safety tips flier to help keep your family safe at www.elkhartcountysheriff.com. As we celebrate Independence Day, and take advantage of the freedoms and liberties we have, please stay safe and respect others while using fireworks.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

MRAP Vehicles

Dear Sheriff: An Indiana Sheriff recently acquired a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle through the Federal surplus program. Will you be getting one of these vehicles?

Answer: Police departments are quasi-military organizations, complete with a command structure and policies and procedures for use of force based on constitutional principles to protect themselves and others.

In 1997, the North Hollywood bank robbers wore body armor and successfully shot and injured officers who were issued 9mm, .38 caliber handguns or 12 gauge shotguns, along with injuring civilians. The officers had to commandeer an armored vehicle to rescue victims. Officers obtained rifles from a local firearms dealer to neutralize the threat. This incident changed the paradigm on law enforcement weapons to include issued rifles to trump the force brought against the police and others. Today, we have rifles in our patrol vehicles.

Locally, in 1998, officers needed to commandeer a Brinks armored truck to rescue civilians who were trapped by the suspect who had just shot and killed Officer Tommy Goodwin with a high powered rifle. Because the suspect was still on the loose the armored vehicle was necessary to protect officers and the vulnerable civilians.

Every time a police officer is killed in the line of duty, it rattles the very core of the community. No reasonable person desires a law enforcement officer be killed by a criminal. The officer who is killed is a symbol of a battle lost for the rule of law, including the safety and security of our community.

Police administrators try to take advantage of weapons and ballistic protection technology to protect the protectors. I don’t want officers to be under-gunned or in such a disadvantaged position as to prevent them from effectively doing their jobs and go home each day.

Last year when the police were searching for the Boston bombing suspect, some said that the police utilized unconstitutional home searches as well as “martial law” type restrictions on the public. Many officers resembled the military as they carried rifles and drove armored vehicles in the streets.

It is generally not the tools of the trade that the public objects to, but what police might do with those tools, either through a perceived Federal government expectation or a department with leadership and officers without the proper servant/peace officer mentality. I’ve written previously on the proper role of a police officer and government. It is paramount that we have leaders who understand their oath-of office and not just enforce laws, but rather, to uphold and defend the Constitution.

I will not be getting one of those MRAP vehicles. In my opinion, it’s impractical and costly to maintain. I currently use an old Brinks armored truck. If your county has or is considering an MRAP vehicle, let your Sheriff know that any tool/personnel use will be closely scrutinized by the public, and that constitutional usurpations will not be tolerated. From my perspective, to be critical about a piece of protective equipment that likely won’t ever be used shows distrust in the leadership. In that case, you may have more of a problem than the mere acquisition of an MRAP vehicle.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing  Sheriff Brad Rogers

Tips and 911

Dear Sheriff: If I am aware of a crime (that is not presently being committed), how can I provide a tip without calling 911 or bothering an officer? Also, is there a way to contact 911 in an emergency without actually placing a voice call?

Answer: The Sheriff’s office has been proactive in staying on the cutting edge of technology by using social media and alert notifications. Using this technology we can now provide more information for citizens and easily receive more tips from citizens. Here’s how you can plug in to this technology and help our community:

1. Sign up at www.elkhartcountysheriff.com to receive alerts. Being on this mail/text list will quickly provide for you crime trends or other vital information that you would not otherwise have access to.

2. If you have a crime tip, go to www.elkhartcountysheriff.com and click on the link “Help Fight Crime. Submit a Tip.” This will take you to a web submission form to complete the details of the tip.

3. Use your cell phone and send us a text us at TIP411 (847411). Title your message: “ECSDTIP” and then give us the tip.

4. Go to www.elkhartcountysheriff.com and download the free Sheriff’s Department iPhone or Android app. Using this method enables you to give anonymous tips. Please note: Contrary to what some people have suggested, this app does not allow us to track your movement or see any identifying information on your phone.

5. Use the Michiana Crime Stoppers website at www.michianacrimestoppers.com and submit your tip via their website, or you may still call their anonymous tip lines at 1-800-342-STOP or 574-288-STOP.

I must emphasize the above techniques are only for tips regarding crimes and situations that are not “in progress” or when you do not need the immediate response of an officer. These communications from you are not being monitored 24/7; they will be answered or addressed during regular business hours only. However, if a crime is presently being committed in your presence, always call 911. The 911 dispatchers are available 24/7 and can best send you the emergency resources you need, whether police, fire or ambulance.

Elkhart County’s 911 Center is also on the cutting edge of technology. When you are experiencing an actual emergency, you should “CALL WHEN YOU CAN, TEXT IF YOU MUST”. The 911 Center now has an option for the hearing impaired and deaf community (or for anyone in a situation that would be put them in danger by making a voice call). For example, for emergencies like home invasions, kidnapping, the presence of an active shooter, etc. you may not be able to speak on the phone without being discovered by the bad guy. In these situations, texting may be your best lifeline for getting help. Simply send a text to 911. Give the address of your present location and the details of your emergency. Avoid using slang or abbreviations. Also, for the present, it is best if you text in English.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Reducing Recidivism

Dear Sheriff: Besides empowering the citizens through social media and community meetings, collaborating with other police agencies, and plain old fashion police work, what else are you doing to reduce crime?

Answer: One of our most successful crime reduction efforts, to date, is the effort to reduce recidivism (re-offense rate) at the Elkhart County Corrections Complex. We use evidence based programming, a fancy name for “what works”. Started while I was the Corrections Commander in 2007, programming began in the corrections facility to change hearts and minds. This utilized existing staff at no extra cost to the taxpayers. In a three year independent study from 2009-2011, the recidivism for those leaving the corrections facility and who had not attended any programming was a disappointing 49%. However, exciting results were revealed that the recidivism rate was reduced significantly for offenders who successfully graduated from programs.

Program results and the percentage the recidivism was reduced to for over 2700 inmates in the study are: Thinking for a Change-26%; Substance Abuse Management System-24%; Anger Management-22%; Life After Incarceration-20%; Financial education-17%; and GED-17%. The GED program has the distinction of the highest graduation rate among all the adult education facilities in Elkhart County! It is possible to make a difference at the county level!

GED programs are being phased out at the correctional facility primarily due to state guideline changes and lack of funding. However, The Crossing Educational Center began in the Correctional Facility in January 2014 and great progress is being made to change lives through education with an actual high school diploma, job training and faith-based mentoring. If the offender leaves the facility before completing the program, they can continue at one of the many Crossing Educational Centers in the area.

Additional work is being accomplished through the Elkhart County Re-Entry Initiative, a group of community leaders who take action on removing barriers for the 700 ex-offenders who are returning from prison to Elkhart County every year. Action is being taken to empower the willing ex-offender in a number of ways to allow them to successfully reintegrate back into the community.

I’ve written previously about the Jail Chaplain Program and its unique efforts and positive impact on the inmate community to make a difference in the here-and-now, and also for eternity.

As Sheriff, I have no statutory obligation to be concerned about recidivism. I could merely warehouse inmates like many other sheriffs do. However as a member of this community, concerned about your public safety, I believe that every effort should be made to keep you from being victimized over and over again. In addition, I desire to make every attempt to reduce the bill to the taxpayers by reducing repeat offenders from coming back to incarceration at the tune of $20,000-40,000 every year. My staff and I work with commitment to reduce recidivism and thus, to reduce crime in Elkhart county.

You can view any of the past “Ask-the-Sheriff” columns at the Sheriff’s department website, www.elkhartcountysheriff.com/ask-the-sheriff.html

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Indiana Bicycling Laws

Dear Sheriff: With the weather improving and bicyclists riding the roadways and trails, can you summarize the Indiana bicycling laws?

Answer: With Elkhart County being a great place for bicycling, this is the time of the year to be aware of bicyclists, both children and adults, who may be traveling with the motoring public. Indiana code 9-21-11 contains bicycling regulations which are intended to keep the bicyclist and motoring public safe as they interact.

Essentially, a person riding a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and duties applicable to a person who drives a vehicle, except for special regulations noted below and those by their nature which have no application. That includes obeying all applicable traffic control devices, such as traffic signals and stop signs. The bicyclist should always ride on the right side, with traffic, unless on a marked bicycle path. Keep in mind that most city ordinances restrict bicycle use on a sidewalk, unless otherwise noted as a bicycle path.

Regarding the general operation, a person riding a bicycle upon a roadway may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. A bicyclist may not carry any item that prevents them from keeping both hands upon the handlebars nor are they allowed to attach the bicycle to a moving vehicle.

A bicycle may not be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which the bicycle is designed and equipped. A bicyclist may not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle; or carry any other person upon the bicycle who is not seated upon an attached and regular seat on the bicycle. A person may not ride upon a bicycle unless seated. So much for the circus acts performed by young children in a typical neighborhood!

As for equipment on the bicycle, a person may not ride a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet. This is very helpful to give a warning while approaching pedestrians on a path. Interestingly, a siren or whistle is prohibited. A bicycle must be equipped with a brake.

A bicycle operated on a highway from one-half hour after sunset until one-h alf hour before sunrise should be equipped with a lamp on the front, exhibiting a white light, visible at least five hundred feet to the front. Also, a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light, or a red reflector, visible at least five hundred feet to the rear is necessary during those times. Although not a law, I highly recommend a reflective vest and a bicycle helmet when riding a bicycle on the roadway for greater visibility and safety, night or day.

Please take these prudent steps toward bicycling safety. See you on the trails!

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

 

ID and Miranda

Dear Sheriff: If I am detained by the police for any reason, whether while walking in a park, sitting in a bar or restaurant, or while driving a vehicle, is it a requirement that I provide my identification to the officer? Do officers have to read my Miranda rights to me before asking me questions, including for my personal information?

Answer: The lawful detention by the police and the form and manner of when and how you need to provide that identification is outlined in state law. Indiana Code (IC) 34-28-5-3 says, “Whenever a law enforcement officer believes in good faith that a person has committed an infraction or ordinance violation, the law enforcement officer may detain that person for a time sufficient to inform the person of the allegation; obtain the person's name, address, and date of birth; or driver's license, if in the person's possession; and allow the person to execute a notice to appear.”

The refusal to identify in the above circumstances could get you jailed: IC 34-28-5-3.5 says, “A person who knowingly or intentionally refuses to provide either the person's name, address, and date of birth; or driver's license, if in the person's possession; to a law enforcement officer who has stopped the person for an infraction or ordinance violation commits a Class C misdemeanor.”

Interestingly, IC 36-2-13-5 requires a Sheriff to obtain personal and indentifying information, including photos and fingerprints during the booking process when someone is incarcerated. The law continues on to say, “A person who refuses to be photographed, refuses to be fingerprinted, withholds information, or gives false information commits a Class C misdemeanor.” So, if you become uncooperative in jail, another crime can be added. Incidentally, since you cannot be released from jail until you are booked, your lack of cooperation will only result in a longer stay, and until such time that you cooperate with the booking process.

Your Miranda rights, also called the Miranda Warning, were outlined in a monumental Supreme Court case, Miranda vs Arizona in 1966, emphasizing the 5th and 6th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. In that case, it generally requires the police to remind someone (also called “Mirandizing”) who is in custody and being interrogated for any crime, their awareness of the right to remain silent or to avoid self incrimination, and the right to legal counsel/attorney. If you are under arrest and the officer does not ask you any questions pertaining to a crime, or the officer merely asks for your name, address and date of birth, causing no self incrimination, there is no need for the Miranda warning.

By the way, officers will “read” the Miranda warning to suspects because we can then testify that we actually read the warning from the card, and no part of the warning was inadvertently forgotten or missed.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Keeping the Sheriff an Elected Office

Dear Sheriff: I have heard of proposed Indiana legislation in the last few years to elect one county executive who would appoint the Sheriff and essentially remove the Sheriff from being elected. What is your opinion on such legislation?

Answer: The Kernan/Shepard report is also entitled “Streamlining Local Government”. This 2010 report can be found on the internet. Although there are some good suggestions in this report, there are some parts that the public should be knowledgeable about, and what some state officials are pushing for at the county government level.

The report states, “Too many roles that should require professional qualifications and standards—such as assessor, sheriff and coroner—are in fact elected positions, with few if any requirements for technical or professional expertise. We recommend removing these positions from the ballot and making elected officials responsible for appointing professionals to these roles.” And, the report goes on to recommend that we “establish a single-person elected county chief executive and transfer the responsibility for administering the duties of the county auditor, treasurer, recorder, assessor, surveyor, sheriff and coroner to the county executive.”

This year we get to vote for state and local officials who can make an impact on our local economic development, our public safety, and the future of our state legislature in enacting future laws or protecting the rights outlined in our state and federal Constitution. Some people in our state government believe “We the People” are too incompetent to make this decision at the ballot box.

Can you imagine the potential perfect storm that could be created with an elected county executive, who then appoints the Sheriff? The Sheriff would no longer be elected and no longer accountable to the people, but must answer only to the county executive. Have you heard of the good ‘ole boy club? I dare say, you haven’t seen anything yet, if this change occurs at the county level.

The Sheriff is the highest elected law enforcement officer in our nation, and for good reason. The Sheriff is elected by all voters in the county, including inside the municipal limits. Do you ever wonder why those inside the city can vote for the Sheriff, when general responsibilities for the Sheriff seem to be outside the municipal limits? The Sheriff has jurisdiction throughout the entire county. The Sheriff can protect and intervene as needed, even calling the county to his aid including deputizing citizens in an emergency.

Can you imagine the Sheriff needing to ask his boss, the county executive, before he intervenes in a law enforcement matter, a citizen’s complaint, or in a case where the federal or local government is abusing a citizen’s constitutional rights, or even whether he should or should not enforce unconstitutional laws? I cannot imagine it.

Every four years a Sheriff is elected by Elkhart County voters. This important office needs to be elected, accountable to the people. Let’s keep it this way.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Becoming a Chaplain

Dear Sheriff: As a pastor, I am interested in becoming a law enforcement chaplain. Please describe this position and their tasks with the Sheriff’s office.

Answer: Imagine being an officer on patrol and you get a call of a serious personal injury accident. You arrive on the scene as fast as you can and find that fire service has not yet arrived. The vehicle is engulfed in flames with a person trapped in the back seat due to the crash. The officer and bystanders try to free the person but is unable to do so in time to save the person. What a terrible experience! The officer and bystanders are traumatized, the responding firemen are traumatized, the relatives and friends of the person are traumatized. This is a tragic situation that needs a trained response to reduce the effects of trauma for the living.

The tasks of police personnel, whether on patrol, following leads as an investigator, or working as a corrections officer in the correctional facility, is often a thankless one that can produce enormous stress. This can negatively affect an officer on a personal and family level. Enter the Elkhart County Sheriff law enforcement (LE) chaplains.

There are two types of volunteer chaplains; those previously described in this column that minister to inmates on a volunteer basis under the community-paid jail chaplain, and LE chaplains. While there are many fine organizations and groups endeavoring to assist county inmates and their families, the ministry of a LE chaplain is unique and directly focused on our LE personnel and the citizens of the county. Those who serve as LE chaplains are experienced and highly trained pastors and mature laypersons that provide volunteer service for those who have committed themselves to protect and serve in our community.

On-call twenty four hours a day and ready to serve at a moment’s notice, LE chaplains enjoy interacting and getting to know our police, corrections and civilian personnel, providing confidential counsel to employees and their families on personal matters, offering citizen support during a personal or family crisis involving law enforcement action, responding to crashes involving critical injuries or deaths, lending help at scenes of a violent crime, assisting officers on suicide calls, helping with death notifications, and being available for grief counseling and crisis support for officers, other professionals and civilians, such as in the story above.

The office of the chaplain is a ministry of service and presence. Sometimes they are needed only to listen, other times they may assist or calmly advise, but always their desire is to be of help whenever and wherever the call may come.

Your prayers and financial support for this ministry are most welcome. Your assistance in these areas will help us to continue the labor I believe is important to both your public servants and our community.

Contact me to inquire about being a law enforcement chaplain.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Local Police Role

Dear Sheriff: What do you believe is the proper role of the local police officer?

Answer: In the 19th century, Sir Robert Peel, a statesman from London, established principles as a guide to reorganizing and refocusing the London Metropolitan Police. Of these principles, the one that stands out in my mind as the most important is: “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

Frederick Bastiat, a Revolutionary period philosopher, in his book “The Law”, concludes the police are the people, and the police derive their authority from the people. Bastiat emphasized that each individual has the right and the authority to defend their own and their neighbor’s life and property. Over the course of time, it has become practical to delegate the individual authority to those who could protect these rights as hired public servants to focus on maintaining order in society while the people went on with their lives. Such public servants were to have no more authority than is held by those who hired them, and the people have no less authority and obligation than they did before they hired the public servants.

The Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, was written as a framework for administering this philosophy and guarantees to the people that our government was instituted to protect their rights, liberties and freedom.

I heard an officer say once, “What does the Constitution have to do with the Law?” This thinking is symptomatic of what’s wrong with our society and some public servants in general. We need leaders who will be the guide for their officers, ensuring that we spurn any attempts or trends to ignore the sacred document, of which were signed by men who, by their signing, literally made themselves targets for death.

We the people, after observing any politician or public servant who shows any hint of not understanding this philosophy should be reminded that all authority of government is drawn from the authority of the governed. If they still don’t get it, the people need to have the person removed from their position of authority. The public servant does not cater to mob or majority rule, but rather by the rule of law. That’s what makes our nation a Republic (or a Representative Democracy) and not merely a Democracy.

Recently, an audio recording surfaced of a Connecticut police officer suggesting he was the master and not the servant. I disagree. The police are the servants. We in policing and public service need to be always mindful of our motto that we are here to “Serve and Protect”.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

Citizens Arrest

Dear Sheriff: Can you describe the process for making a citizen’s arrest?

Answer: Law enforcement officers are public servants that provide law enforcement, including arrests, protection, and service to our community. However, this is not a police state. We don’t have, nor do we want, a police officer on every corner. Sometimes, citizens are in a position to choose to intervene in a criminal act where law enforcement officers are not present. This can be extremely dangerous and is not recommended unless you have the abilities, training, and the intestinal fortitude to intervene. Before you intervene, you should know the parameters of the law relating to a citizen’s arrest and the use of force to effect that arrest.

Indiana law provides that citizens may arrest those who are committing a felony or a breach of the peace. Indiana Code 35-33-1-4 says in part: “Any person may arrest (the taking of a person into custody, that he may be held to answer for a crime) any other person if: the other person committed a felony in his presence; a felony has been committed and he has probable cause to believe that the other person has committed that felony; or a misdemeanor involving a breach of peace is being committed in his presence and the arrest is necessary to prevent the continuance of the breach of peace. A person making an arrest under this section shall, as soon as practical, notify a law enforcement officer and deliver custody of the person arrested to a law enforcement officer…”

In addition to arrest, the proper use of force must be considered for the action to be legal and to avoid undue liability by the citizen. Indiana Code IC 35-41-3-3 says in part: “A person other than a law enforcement officer is justified in using reasonable force against another person to effect an arrest or prevent the other person's escape if a felony has been committed and there is probable cause to believe the other person committed that felony. However, such a person is not justified in using deadly force unless that force is justified under [IC 35-41-3-2]…”

IC 35-41-3-2 states in part, “…A person is justified in using reasonable force against any other person to protect the person or a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the imminent use of unlawful force…”

As you can imagine, lawyers and juries have much more time to consider facts of a dynamic situation, in which you only have seconds to decide on a course of action, once confronted with an incident. Police officers face this daily.

Make sure you’re knowledgeable of the law and your abilities before taking an active role in an arrest. The removal of someone’s freedom improperly can cause you serious legal headaches. Sometimes it’s better to just be a good witness if you or others are not in immediate peril. If you’re not confident or have the ability, it’s best to call 911 and let law enforcement officers handle the situation.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Emergency Declarations

Dear Sheriff: Can you explain the process, and the implications of, an emergency declaration in the county?

Answer: Indiana law provides the Governor or the County Commissioners with the ability to declare an emergency situation in the state or county respectively. IC 10-14-3-1 lists all the many types of disasters, some more ominous than others.

The purpose of a local emergency declaration depends on the situation. Generally, the purpose is to prevent or mitigate those disasters where possible, generally to provide for the common defense, to protect the public peace, health, and safety, and to preserve the lives and property of the people of the county, all while upholding the Constitutions of the United States and Indiana.

The County Commissioners, as is the Sheriff, are elected by all the citizens of the county, not just those living outside municipal limits. Logically, the Commissioners’ role in emergency declarations includes municipal areas within the county, unless specified by the Commissioners.

In any disaster, and depending on the situation, the Commissioners will consult with the Sheriff, Highway Director, Emergency Management Director, Fire Service, etc., before declaring a state of emergency and the scope of the declaration.

Based on my experience, witnessing this process in my 27 years of service at the Sheriff’s Department, the County Commissioners and others involved in the decision do not make this decision flippantly. In addition, the Commissioners are in a tug-of-war of sorts; to not only listen and balance a variety of constituents’ opinions and needs, but addressing public safety and mitigation of the crisis while often dealing with quickly changing conditions.

The Commissioners and I, as typified in the two recent snow emergency declarations, experience two paradigms: Those who think government should keep their noses completely out of people’s business no matter how bad it gets, including those that believe their “constitutional right to travel” should not be restricted, to those who think they cannot do anything without government telling them what to do.

In the recent snow storms, the scope of the declaration involved a travel warning, enforceable by law enforcement, to keep non-essential personnel from traveling on the roadways. During a blizzard highway workers and police spend most of their time pulling people from ditches and snow drifts, preventing them from clearing the roadways. The declaration keeps traffic off the road and allows the county to get back to normal as soon as possible. The Commissioners, again while consulting with the same leaders that originated the emergency, decide to lift the restrictions as soon as safely possible.

Being that Elkhart County encompasses over 400 square miles, some areas may not be affected by a crisis, while other areas are seriously impacted. In the future, an emergency declaration may focus on narrow geographical areas, excluding the municipal areas, if applicable, and reduce the impact to businesses and travel of those not affected by the crisis.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing  Sheriff Brad Rogers

The 4th Amendment and Communications

Dear Sheriff: I saw on Facebook that you testified in favor of a Bill at the Indiana Statehouse protecting us from illegal searches regarding government tapping our phones, collecting information from emails, etc. Can you explain the Bill and your position?

Answer: As your Sheriff, I try to provide input on legislation that I believe would be helpful, or sometimes harmful, to the Elkhart County community and could impact our public safety or our constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Here is the summary of Senate Bill 231: Prohibits the state, state agencies, political subdivisions, and local units of government from: (1) assisting a federal agency that collects an electronic communication without a warrant; and (2) using information that relates to an electronic communication in an investigation or criminal prosecution if the information was obtained from a federal agency that collected the electronic communication without a warrant. Makes knowingly or intentionally: (1) assisting a federal agency that collects electronic communications without a warrant; or (2) using information obtained from a federal agency that collects electronic communications without a warrant in a criminal investigation or prosecution; a Level 5 felony.

We know that civil liberties are in jeopardy when our federal government, regardless of the political party in control, essentially disregards the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution and decides that anything goes regarding the collection of our electronic communications. It’s convenient to say that a crisis is at hand; that the collection of data needs to be done immediately and continually to protect us from terrorism or other peril.

Can you imagine the outrage if your Sheriff was found to be listening to all your phone calls and reviewing your emails without a warrant? Why should we not be outraged by our federal government violating our rights? Unlike a local Sheriff or police department, holding the federal government accountable is not easy. Often, we feel helpless, particularly when Congress allows it to continue.

To have the federal officers collaborate or put to their service local or state law enforcement in these types of unconstitutional searches or seizures is what this Bill is designed to address. The Bill recognizes Indiana state sovereignty, and the right to protect Hoosiers from an overreaching federal government.

I support Senate Bill 231 in concept. However, during the committee hearing, there were some issues that arose. For example, when presented with federal agents who say they have a warrant, local officers would naturally be inclined to take the information in “good faith”. This creates a conflict that is not easily and practically resolved. The wording of the Bill could create a potential felony charge on a local officer when they acted in good faith, but never intended to do anything illegal. As of now, the Bill appears to have stalled in Committee.

Senator Mike Delph provided a good start on debating this issue. However, more time is needed to work out the bugs and provide a comfort level for the Senators in the Committee. Hopefully this measure will be brought up again soon in an effort to show we are serious about our 4th Amendment guarantees in Indiana.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Tips for Being Prepared

Dear Sheriff: With the recent snow emergency in Elkhart County, I observed store shelves being stripped of bread and milk. Can you recommend what steps to take to make sure my family is prepared in any crisis?

Answer: I used to read an old story to my children about a young man who promised the farmer when he was hired, “I can sleep on windy nights.” The farmer didn’t understand what he meant until the night of a great storm in which the farmer panicked, rushing outside, believing that his livestock was in jeopardy and all of his hay would be blown away. However, the farmer was surprised to find that everything was all safe and secure. The farmer’s new help slept peacefully through the storm. The farmer now understood. When you’re prepared for the storm, you can sleep through it without worry.

The snow storm we experienced recently was a forecasted temporary inconvenience. Snow melts. The crisis quickly passes. Self-reliance is not a trait many take today. Many people think if the electric goes off-line or the cable TV is out, it’s an emergency worthy of dialing 911.

However, more ominous and un-forecasted natural events could occur such as tornados, flooding and earthquakes. Man-made disasters include terrorism, communication interruption, economic unrest, or a hazard material spill from trucking or railroad. Most everyone in the county lives within a couple of miles of a state highway or railroad, all within the distance of a potential evacuation zone. Evacuation can be a disaster for those who have not prepared.

Let’s face it. In a county-wide crisis, law enforcement, fire service, medical services and government in general may be overwhelmed. The public could be on their own for up to 72 hours, until the situation stabilizes or outside help arrives. Preparing now is important for your family’s safety. You don’t need a nuclear bunker or a 5-year supply of food. Most items you need to prepare are already in your home or are very cost effective. Don’t wait until the “storm” is on the horizon to prepare.

I suggest you start now by creating a family plan in case you are separated, using family or friends in another county or state so that you may coordinate a meeting place. Build a 72-hour kit for each of your family members, to be taken with you in an evacuation or for long term shelter-in-place. Consider medications and special needs. Create networks with neighbors and relatives, particularly those who are disabled or elderly, so that in a crisis those in need can be assisted.

Additional preparation considerations include: Flashlights, batteries, emergency water supplies (store up to two gallons per day per person for at least one week), fill your vehicle’s gas tank when it reaches ½ a tank, know how to shut off power, water and gas to your home, first aid kit, emergency food supplies, pet supplies, and emergency cash to name a few.

Check the internet for a disaster plan checklist and prepare now for a true crisis. Contact your local emergency management agency or Sheriff’s office for assistance. You, too, can sleep on windy nights!

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

Old Jail, New Jail

Dear Sheriff: What is going to be done with the old jail in Goshen? Can the old jail be turned into something useful, such as a homeless shelter? Why was a new jail built? Was the new jail built larger than needed?

Answer: The old county jail in Goshen saw the last remaining inmates on November 16, 2007 when 626 inmates were safely moved to the newly completed jail in Elkhart. It took another couple of years for the law enforcement center to be completed and the Sheriff’s administrative offices moved adjacent to the new jail. Since that time, the old jail has been vacant. The four floors of concrete and steel rooms would be a security challenge and cost prohibitive for renovation, whether the repurpose would be a homeless shelter, office space or even a different type of inmate housing (such as minimum security or juvenile detention).

The decision to repurpose or destroy the old jail is in the hands of the County Commissioners. One large challenge before any decision is made is to move Juvenile Detention from its existing annex off of the old jail. All infrastructures (water, heating, air conditioning) for Juvenile Detention initiate in the old jail. Although plans were moving forward to relocate Juvenile Detention to the new Criminal Justice Complex in 2008, the momentum stopped with the fall of the local economy. So, it appears, for now, the old jail will stand as-is until a decision is made on Juvenile Detention.

As time passes, some have lost sight of the reasons for building a new facility. To refresh memories, the old jail had a bed capacity of 415. When I became jail commander in 2003, the jail was over capacity and increasing annually. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) was preparing a lawsuit against Elkhart County for overcrowding. The type of lawsuit is best avoided rather than the county trying to defend such a costly lawsuit, destined not to bode well for the county. In such a lawsuit, it was always possible that a Federal judge would attempt to micro-manage our local jail operations. The county broke ground for the new jail in 2004. The ICLU agreed to stop the lawsuit, assuming the construction of the new jail continued.

By the time the new jail was completed in 2007, we had 626 inmates. As you can see by the increase, the consultants and designers of the new jail wisely wanted to make sure that the new jail was not at capacity upon opening, thus facing the same overcrowding challenges all over again. The new jail was built with 1000 beds. It does not make sense to build a jail by a few beds more than what the old jail was holding. In 2009, the population actually rose to 1000 inmates (only about 50 of these were prison bed rentals at the time) and returned to the low 600’s where it is today. These fluctuations are seen from time to time.

Until such time that the empty beds are ever filled, the Sheriff’s office works hard to fill the beds with rentals from other correctional entities that need them, thus generating revenue for our county.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Crime and Social Media

Dear Sheriff: There seems to be an increase in crime in Elkhart County lately. I’m seeing a lot of publicity, in the news and on social media. Home invasions, robberies, burglaries, oh my! What is happening to our fine community? I’m scared!

Answer: Only in recent years have Sheriffs and police agencies had access to social media and innovative technology to help spread information. Some police agencies would prefer that you not know what is going on in your community, as though communicating these facts might make the agency or community look bad. In fact, some people prefer the stick-your-head-in-the-sand mentality, which allows their denial to give them a false sense of security.

My philosophy is one of empowerment. By providing citizens with crime trends, suspect information and alerts, citizens can be alerted as to the reality in their community. Obviously, we should not tell all aspects of our investigation which could jeopardize catching the bad guy. But, you will have enough knowledge to take action to protect your family. As an elected official, this philosophy has risks, as I’m providing you with information that the public is not used to receiving and potentially sending a wrong perception of our community. Empowered with the information or not, the crimes are occurring. I would rather you know about them. It’s a risk worth taking as I serve you.

The holiday season is always a time where theft, burglaries, and robberies see an uptick. Crimes of opportunity such as gifts under the tree or a purse left in plain view on the front vehicle seat in a parking lot will provide an easy temptation. The perception of lots of easy money (which is not true) and despair will lead to robberies of stores. I believe that crime shows on TV are even providing ways for copy-cat criminals to carry out the method they commit crimes.

As for being scared, fear can be a good thing, as long as it does not cripple you. Even police officers are scared from time to time. Fear can allow you to take precautions and prepare for the worst. Allow your fear to move you to action. Don’t become a prisoner in your own home; you must live and not show your children that you are gripped with fear. Educate your children of the evils. Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Get a means to protect yourself and your family. Know your neighbors and watch over them. Call 911 to report suspicious activity to police. Don’t stick your head in the sand. We live in a troubled world, but we live in a great community. Be empowered!

The Sheriff’s office has alerts for offenders who work or move in your area. We have alerts for when offenders are released from custody. We have alerts for when crimes are reported in your area. The police need your help to solve crimes and report suspicious activity. Go to www.elkhartcountysheriff.com and click on the many resources that will empower you with alerts and information.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Carrying a Handgun

Carrying a Handgun

 Dear Sheriff: Do officers have a right to stop/detain me merely because I open-carry a firearm? Can they ask me to display my handgun carry license? Do I need to carry my handgun license with me when I carry?

Answer: In a prior column I addressed the issue of open carry and concealed carry, all of which is legal in Indiana with a handgun license. My preference is concealed carry for tactical and practical reasons. While concealed, you tip your hand when you decide, not when someone observes your firearm and forces you to take action on their terms. In addition, many people seem to be disturbed by those that open carry a firearm. This may lead a business or person calling the police to report a “suspicious person with a firearm.”

For those of you who open carry, or someone observes your concealed firearm and they report it to police, at least in Elkhart County, the Sheriff/Chiefs/State Police and Prosecutor have all agreed to be consistent in stopping, detaining, or asking for a handgun license in accordance to law and the Constitution. In short, if the carrying of the firearm is the only focus, then an officer does not have a right to stop or detain you, nor ask for your handgun license. However, this does not mean that the officer cannot approach you and engage in conversation with you. This does not mean you are being detained unless the officer says so or keeps you from leaving.

Police get suspicious persons calls all the time and need to determine from the caller or situation what exactly is occurring and whether a crime is being committed or about to be committed. It makes sense that an officer would speak to the person carrying the firearm. If someone starts shooting up a place after a suspicious person was reported but the officers did nothing, then the public would be critical of the police for not investigating.

If the person carrying the firearm was threatening, waiving the gun around, harassing, trespassing, causing a disturbance, or otherwise breaking the law, the officer can detain you and may inquire about your firearm and whether you may be legally carrying. See my article on November 22, 2013, about Stop and Frisk. If probable cause exists that you have committed a crime the officer can arrest you.

Keep in mind, even if you have not broken the law, a business may desire you to leave because you are carrying a firearm and may request the officer to ask you to leave. In this case, it is a trespass issue, not a firearm issue. The officer will give you the opportunity to leave. If you refuse to leave, the officer can now arrest you for trespassing.

As always, the street is not the place to argue with an officer. If you believe that an officer acted inappropriately whether in attitude or legally, then you should contact the officer’s agency and speak to a supervisor, filing a complaint if you desire.

As for your handgun license, the law does not require you to carry your license on you while carrying a handgun.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Stop and Frisk

Question: “Stop and Frisk” by officers has been in the news lately. What exactly is “Stop and Frisk”?

Answer: The 4th amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution protects us from government using “unreasonable search and seizures”. Through the courts the police are guided in what is reasonable and what is not. In answering this question, my desire is to give the public a bit of insight into court rulings and police officers’ attempts at investigating criminal activity while protecting the constitutional rights of persons.

In 1968, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Terry v. Ohio, and refined a number of times since then through other cases, that the police may stop a suspicious person if the police can “articulate that criminal activity was afoot.” Mere suspicion cannot be just a hunch. However, it is less than “probable cause” needed for an arrest. The stop is a temporary detention, not an arrest. The scope of the detention is to quickly investigate whether the person stopped is about to or has committed a crime. The person detained is not free to leave. During the stop, if the officer develops probable cause that a crime has been committed, the person can be arrested. If no probable cause exists, then the person is allowed to leave. Typically the stop is defined in minutes, not in hours.

As an example, a report was received of a woman being assaulted in a shopping center parking lot. A description of the suspect and victim, along with the vehicle description and direction of travel was broadcast to police officers. Within moments, an officer observes the vehicle fitting the description with two occupants fitting the description provided and near the location of the assault. The officer does not yet have probable cause. However, the officer can articulate, based on the contemporaneous facts provided, that this vehicle may contain a suspect/victim of a crime. The stop is justified as reasonable. Upon stopping the vehicle, and briefly assessing the situation, the officer finds that this is not the correct vehicle and the occupants were not the suspect/victim. The officer politely explains the situation and the reason they were stopped and allows them to continue on their way. In this case, there was a stop, but no frisk.

A frisk is an action by an officer on a person whom the officer has briefly detained, as described above. The scope of the frisk is merely for officer safety and to search for weapons in the outer clothing. The courts have held that it is reasonable for an officer who has reason to believe, and can articulate, that the person detained is armed and believes his personal safety is in jeopardy, the officer may “pat down” or frisk the outer clothing of the person for weapons only. If a weapon is found, the officer may seize the weapon during the duration of the stop.

The world of criminal activity is a dangerous place. Officers risk their lives daily as they serve to keep our communities safe. “Stop and frisk”, a reasonable search and seizure with strict guidelines, helps to keep our public and officers safe.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Inmate Medical Care Payment

“Do inmates get free medical care? Please explain the medical care process inside the jail and why this care is so important.”

A large responsibility and liability for the Sheriff is an inmate’s health while in custody. Whether we like it or not the courts have ruled that while inmates are incarcerated they have a constitutional right to basic medical care. Keep in mind that most inmates in a jail have not been convicted of a crime yet.

Practically, when an inmate arrives at the jail, the goal is to keep the inmate as healthy as possible, and attempt to keep them from deteriorating medically during their stay. Significant awards from lawsuits can result at any deliberate indifference by the Sheriff or jail staff on medical issues.

Prior to entering the jail, many substance abusers have been indifferent to their own medical and dental care. When the inmate enters the jail, medical and corrections staff immediately assesses the inmate for suicidal tendencies and medical issues. Inmates come into the jail injured or with contagious diseases and chronic illnesses such as tuberculosis, heart problems, cancer, flu, diabetes, and severe dental decay.

Gone are the days when the Sheriff merely hires a nurse or a family doctor to tend to occasional inmates’ health care. Elkhart County has a contract with an inmate medical services vendor to provide the 24/7 medical care required in the jail environment. Nursing staff are always present. A physician, including mental health professionals, are present or on call throughout the week. A dentist visits weekly to treat inmates.

Inmates use their electronic kiosks in their living area to “e-mail” medical staff of the need to see a doctor or nurse. Inmates who have a medical emergency can notify a corrections officer, who in turn, can notify emergency responders.

Inmates are charged a fifteen dollar co-pay when they wish to see a doctor or nurse for a nonemergency sick call. No inmate will be denied medical care because of their inability to pay. With the arrival of the Affordable Healthcare Act and all of its confusion, it is yet to be seen how this will impact inmate medical costs for the county budget.

Nursing staff will facilitate “med-pass” twice daily to the nearly 75% of the inmates who need medicine to keep them healthy. Inmates are charged per medication, depending on their ability to pay. Inmates, who desire over-the-counter medication, can order from the jail at their expense.

Chronically ill inmates may be housed in the facility’s medical housing unit where nursing and corrections staff can closely monitor their progress. Even post-operative patients can be brought back to the jail soon after surgery to save on hospital costs. Inmates on suicide watch need to be checked often, with no more than 15 minutes between checks.

Do not expect to come to jail and receive elective surgery or other procedures that are not essential. For example, if your teeth have rotted out and you have been gumming your food for the last several months and you’re not malnourished, you will not likely get dentures upon your arrival at the jail.

Inmates sometime have to be transported to a specialist or hospital to give birth or due to the seriousness of the illness or injury. The cost of the outside medical care is at the county’s expense. However, the medical vendor works on recouping costs through any insurance the inmate has and ensuring that hospital overcharges do not occur.

The Elkhart County Corrections Complex is accredited through the National Commission for Correctional Health Care, ensuring that only the highest standards in health care are present to protect the citizens of the county from frivolous lawsuits.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers 

Genuine Officer or Imposter

“In your October 11, 2013 column you wrote about what to do on a typical traffic stop. How do you know that the car with red and blue lights behind you is a real police officer and not an imposter? What can a person do to verify the officer’s identity if there are suspicions?”

Although rare, there have been times when local police received a report of someone impersonating a police officer. Arrests have been made for such a crime in the last few years. Red and blue lights, siren and even a badge can be purchased on the internet. So it makes sense for citizens to take some common sense precautions on traffic stops, particularly at night when your visibility is limited to observe the vehicle behind you and the approaching officer.

In Indiana, police vehicles must have both red and blue lights. One color only is not legitimate police lighting. Most police vehicles today have multiple red/blue lighting systems, including flashing headlamps. Most imposters have a small flashing light that will not be convincing to the casual observer.

When you see the red and blue lights behind you, and it is apparent that they don’t just want to go around you, but are actually stopping you, signal and pull off the side of the road and stop. At night, if you see a well lit location ahead, place your hazard lights on and slowly pull in to the lighted location. Your doors should always be locked when driving. But if the doors are not locked, now would be a good time to lock them.

To stop a traffic violator, the law says that plain-clothes officers must be in a marked police vehicle, whereas a uniformed officer can be in an unmarked or marked vehicle. If the officer is not wearing a uniform, they should identify themselves as an officer, verbally and with their police photo ID and badge. Although the officer may not hand you his wallet ID, you can ask to read the ID closely, and not accept just a quick flash view of the ID.

Roll your window down only a few inches so that you and the officer can communicate. A police officer is not going to ask you inappropriate questions or harass you. If you are still not comfortable that the officer is legitimate, then call 911 and provide your location (as best you can) and ask the Dispatcher to verify the officer’s identity. All local officers will have notified the 911 Dispatcher of the location and vehicle description, via radio, as they stop you. When there are apparent driver concerns, an additional officer may arrive in a separate police car, providing additional support for legitimacy. A police officer is not going to be upset by your reasonable safety precautions.

Of course, if you find that the “officer” is actually an imposter, call 911 and stay in your locked car. Real police officers will be dispatched to the scene quickly. If you find yourself outside your vehicle with an imposter, do everything you can to keep from getting into the imposter vehicle. Get away from the imposter, honk your horn or scream. You have the right to defend yourself if you are being assaulted.

Imposters are typically cowards and attempt to use a perceived authority to gain advantage. By using common sense, any person can overcome a police impersonator’s weakness for legitimacy.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

Traffic Stops

What should a driver expect from an officer on a typical traffic stop and what should persons do to help the traffic stop go well for the officer and the driver?

With emphasis on public safety, a police officer’s daily task often involves traffic stops. A traffic stop occurs when an officer has reason to believe that a traffic violation has occurred or that criminal activity could be or is occurring.

For the police officer, a traffic stop is never routine.

There are two types of stops: Unknown Risk and High Risk.

The unknown risk is the most common and the focus of today’s column. The risk is unknown because the officer does not know whether the vehicle they are stopping for a mere traffic violation has a driver or passengers who just committed a serious crime and have no intention of cooperating and could harm the officer. Or, the vehicle has an otherwise law-abiding citizen who had a momentary lapse in judgment and every intention to cooperate and would never harm an officer. The officer does not know until they approach the vehicle.

At least 30 percent of all officers killed in the line of duty are killed on traffic stops. It’s no wonder that officers are trained to be cautious and are often perceived by the general public as rude or discourteous, when in reality the officer is being firm and professional.

For example, an officer approaching a stopped vehicle may have his hand on his holstered firearm. This does not mean he is looking for a fight or threatening you. Rather, the officer has placed their hand in the location that best suits surviving a deadly force encounter with little notice in the unknown risk situation.

For people who get stopped by a police officer, you should stay inside your vehicle unless otherwise told by the officer. Police officers control the encounter, not only to protect you from stepping into traffic, but to provide the officer with a tactical advantage.

Before the officer approaches, a driver should gather their driver’s license and registration/insurance card. As the officer approaches place your hands on the steering wheel. Officers know that hands facilitate harm toward an officer. Whether it is knife, firearm or a closed fist, if the officer observes the hands, they can assess if a threat is immediately present.

Being honest with the officer may result in a warning being issued. Typically the difference between a warning and ticket is the seriousness of the violation, the driver’s record (including if other warnings were given prior to the stop) and the attitude of the driver.

Depending on the officer, some have zero tolerance for certain violations, examples of which might include child restraint, passing a school bus while loading/unloading, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and train signal violations.

BE COURTEOUS. If you disagree with your ticket, the street is not the time to argue. If you have an issue with the officer’s conduct, file a complaint with the law enforcement agency. If you would like to challenge the allegation, you have every right to appear in court to present your case. Lastly, drivers who have a good experience or want to be respectful toward the officer may offer to shake hands at the end of the encounter. Do not be offended if the officer respectfully declines and avoids physical contact, primarily to avoid reducing the distance we call the “reactionary gap” if defensive actions need to be taken by the officer.

If desired, simply provide an officer your compliment and greeting, and proceed on your way.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers

A Day in the Life of an Inmate

What is one-day-in-the-life of an inmate in the county jail? On the legendary Andy Griffith Show, Deputy Barney Fife announces to new inmates in his jail in his loud command voice, "Now here at the Rock we have two basic rules. Memorize them so you can say them in your sleep. The first rule is obey all rules! Secondly, do not write on the walls..."

Jail rules are designed to maintain order in the facility and protect inmates, staff and visitors. Inmates' face discipline when they violate the rules. Consequences include a reduction in privileges or increased lock down time in their cell.

Inmates are classified by corrections staff and moved to general population where the routine of jail life begins. Classification is based on behavior, criminal charge and history, potential for being a victim, gang affiliation, programming needs and the need to be separated because of witnesses in the same case. Eligible inmates will have programs during the day. Exercise opportunities are available most of the day.

Every inmate will experience something called a "headcount" at least 6 times daily. Area searches, called "shakedowns", and inmates body searches are completed randomly anytime of the day or night to search for contraband. Privacy in jail is nearly non-existent for safety and security.

Breakfast is a cold meal and served at 4:00am. Breakfast needs to be served this early so that inmates who are going to court will be searched, shackled and ready for transport. Inmates, who had been locked in their cells for the night, will be allowed into their day room where TV, phones, and showers are located. If the inmate attends court, they will appear before the judge, then returned to jail, searched, and back to general population.

Visitation is done via video, starting at 9:00am and concludes at 9:00pm. Family and friends may come to the jail lobby to visit an inmate. The inmate uses a kiosk in their living area to communicate (video/audio) with the visitor, lasting no more than 30 minutes.

Lunch is served at 11:30am with a hot lunch. Inmates eat their meals in their living area, using the stainless steel tables and stools that are affixed to the concrete floor. Dinner is served at 5:00pm with a hot meal.

Inmates are responsible for cleaning their own living areas and certain inmates are used to clean other parts of the jail. I do not pay staff to clean the jail, as I believe it is important that inmates clean up after themselves. As incentives, the inmates that have the cleanest areas on a weekly basis will receive a special snack (typically popcorn) and a movie night.

An inmate who is sick or needs medical attention has access to 24 hour medical care with a co-pay. Medication pass occurs twice daily, as the inmate will receive their meds in the living area from a nurse. Only basic and emergency medical care is provided.

Clean clothing, toilet paper, and razors are provided to the inmates twice weekly. Lockdown of the inmates into their cells and lights out occurs at 11:00pm and the process starts all over again with breakfast at 4:00am.

Some people think the jail is comfort and luxury. The jail environment is concrete and steel. Every move is directed and monitored. Inmates are told when to get up and when to go to bed. No matter how you slice it, jail is not a great place to live if you love freedom. Welcome to the Rock...

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

Rights and Liberties

Where do our rights and liberties come from? What is the proper role of government? Why all the fuss about keeping the Constitution?

There are only two possible sources of rights and our resulting liberties. Rights are either God-given and inalienable, or they are granted by government. If we accept the premise that our rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the conclusion that they can be denied by government. As the French political economist, Frederick Bastiat, phrased it so well, "Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place." (The Law, p.6)

Our founding fathers signed their death warrants when they signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The liberty they sought, which is our inherent, inalienable right as individuals, was won at great expense through the War of Independence. Those rights were codified about a decade later in the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution did not give people rights, but rather guaranteed that the government would protect those God-given rights. The Oath of Office that I have written about before, is mandated for every public servant to uphold that supreme law of the land, ensuring the guarantee of those inherent rights to the people.

In general terms and not intended to be exhaustive, the proper role of local government includes such defensive activities, as maintaining police, fire and medical emergency services and other services for protection against loss of life, loss of property, and loss of liberty. Infrastructure such as water/sewer, roads, and bridges, which I would contend are public safety issues, should be the role of government.

As budgets are considered for 2014, I would encourage all public servants making fiscal decisions to consider and have dialogue on the proper role of government. Many leaders have encouraged and discussed prioritization on spending in the county's budgetary processes, but little progress has been made. I don't have all the answers, but leaders should continue to ensure that government maintains its proper role.

As your Sheriff, and part of the government that works for you, I hold by the philosophy of not just going with the popular political wind of the times. "Unlike the political opportunist, the true statesman values principle above popularity, and works to create popularity for those political principles which are wise and just." -Ezra Taft Benson, Secretary of Agriculture 1953-60.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers