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Too many town marshals and little oversight comes to a boil

Town marshal restrictions

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There are hundreds of retired police officers that continue to serve in law enforcement as a reserve police officer or town marshal, but there are hundreds more that become reserves or deputy marshals for a completely different reason.

“We are bringing in people that are there to monetize that position in a way we didn’t think about before.” said Jack Sandlin, a retired Indianapolis police officer and current republican state senator. People are making money with reserve and deputy marshal badges working security. Sandlin helped pass a new state law to curb the number of marshals and reserve police officers a town can have, but the law requires action from individual town councils and boards.   

“It requires a city or town to pass an ordinance to state the number of reserve officers they are gonna have so that we don’t have someone that might be passing out a badge or an ID that is unknown to the town board or city council. That can create a real liability if that stuff is going on,” said Sandlin 

In Henry County two months ago, I-Team 8 reported small towns have more than 60 deputy marshals. Indiana doesn’t maintain a list of marshals and deputy marshals currently working.  

“I do know the last estimate about 80% of law enforcement agencies in the state of Indiana operate a marshal program” said Charles Carter, a town marshal in Poseyville, Indiana, and president of the Indiana Marshal Association. Carter says most of these agencies are in small towns with two or three people on the department. Without a local ordinance to restrict the number of deputies marshals, a town could bring on several more. Most deputy marshals and reserve police officers are volunteers and aren’t paid by the town. Carter is aware of the marshals around the state that allow deputies to work security jobs without much oversight. 

He says could present a problem given the liability of law enforcement.    

“There is talk of the state taking over town marshals and assigning them to each town, and I think all of that is dangerous,” said Carter. “I am living in my small town, most town marshals I know live there. A small town are part of the community they are intricately webbed into that community. Town marshals serve their community from cradle to grave. It is very unique law enforcement position.”

He says one of the issues facing his organization and marshals around Indiana is the lack of management by the town officials 

“A town marshal agency that tries to overstep or be more than what they need to be. I mean, we are the peacekeepers of the town” said Carter 

Carter welcomes more oversight from the state, but not a takeover of the marshal program