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Southern Indiana sheriff’s office about to stop providing 24/7 coverage

A Washington County Sheriff's Office patrol car. The department announced on March 15, 2024, it would no longer be able to provide 24/7 coverage to the county due to staffing issues. (Provided Photo/Washington County Sheriff's Office via Facebook)

SALEM, Ind. (WISH) — A southern Indiana sheriff’s office announced that it can no longer provide 24/7 coverage starting later in March.

A post from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office made Friday says they will no longer have overnight coverage starting March 22.

This means the department will no longer have deputies on duty from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily.

Sheriff Brent Miller in the post cited deputies working long hours several days in a row and a starting salary thousands of dollars below the state average as reasons for the scheduling change.

“We are trying to maintain appropriate police coverage, but we simply can’t work the way we are,” Miller said in the post.

The sheriff says the department is down to six full-time deputies with two in training. Miller says the deputies work seven or eight days in a row, “occasionally working 16-hour shifts.”

A high turnover rate has also affected the department, the post says, making it “increasingly difficult to attract – and retain – qualified candidates due to the county’s current low pay scale.”

Miller was quoted saying, “A recent salary survey revealed that our starting salary is $9,000 below the average starting salary of officers in comparison to surrounding counties and/or city police departments. Our deputies are simply leaving for more money.”

The post also says that Miller claims that the Washington County Council “has not communicated any options for a possible solution,” and that if the issue isn’t resolved, the county will continue to face problems retaining and recruiting new deputies.

Miller says the change is not permanent, and considers it an “attempt to continue 24/7 coverage for the county.” According to the post, Miller formally requested assistance from the Indiana State Police to cover the overnight hours.

“Even if the state police are able to provide additional coverage, it is the responsibility of the county government to provide public safely for the citizens they represent,” Miller said in the post. “I sincerely hope the county council will come to the table and work with me, my department, and the Merit Board to address this very serious public safety issue.”

Indiana State Police will provide overnight coverage to the county starting March 22, the post says.

Washington County is in southern Indiana, the county seat of Salem about a 50-minute drive northwest of Louisville.