KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. (WISH) — A mass resignation of police officers in a central Indiana town of approximately 2,100 people sparked public safety concerns and calls for increased government transparency.
Approximately a dozen officers resigned en masse from the Knightstown Police Department (KPD) over disagreements with the town council, according to employees.
“There have been 15 resignations in the last two to three weeks,” said Scott Spurgin, a Knightstown resident and volunteer firefighter who said he worked closely with local law enforcement agencies.
Long-standing frustrations boiled over after town officials selected an interim police chief with less experience than the officer picked for the job by current KPD chief Chris Newkirk.
A “power struggle” ensued after Newkirk was placed on medical leave for a shoulder injury, officers said.
Town council members did not immediately respond to requests for comment from News 8.
A photo of a statement that appeared to address the resignations was posted Tuesday morning on the town’s Facebook page.
“Recently, there have been some changes within the Knightstown Police Department,” the statement read. “We, as the Knightstown Town Council, wish to assure the citizens of Knightstown, Indiana that effective measures have been taken to ensure that there is a law enforcement presence for Knightstown, Indiana 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
The departing officers included KPD’s only K9 handler; Spurgin worried his resignation would impact investigative capabilities throughout Henry County.
“[County authorities] have called in for that police dog several times,” he said.
Spurgin and other residents said they feared ongoing conflict would result in the loss of more officers and longer 911 response times.
“If there’s not an available policeman here in Knightstown… dispatch will have to dispatch a Henry County sheriff’s [deputy] and that could take up to 10, 20 [or] 25 minutes to get here. By that time, who knows what’s going to happen?” he said.
Wendy Fuller, a Knightstown resident who works as an emergency medical technician, said she relied on police to secure scenes she was dispatched to.
“This definitely impacts my work,” Fuller said of the resignations. “We support our officers and we want some answers.”
Dozens of residents commented on the town council’s Facebook statement with similar calls for transparency.
“The community deserves an explanation [as] to why our officers left!” one woman wrote. “These were good officers who have done a lot for this town and them leaving the way they did means there is more that the town council needs to explain to the community.”
Residents are expected to raise concerns about the future of the police department during the town’s next council meeting.