Public safety departments welcome new investigators

GREENFIELD — Public safety will get a boost next year with the addition of two investigators to the city’s police and fire departments.

The Greenfield Police Department will add a narcotics detective to its ranks in January, keeping in step with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, which brought aboard its own investigator last fall.

The city’s new fire marshal, hired last month, will lend a hand to police when investigations require his expertise; he’s investigated one arson case. As the city’s first full-time fire marshal, he also will work to set up a more regular inspection schedule for area businesses to make sure they meet state fire codes.

The new employees have different roles in the community but a single purpose — to keep residents safe.

Cracking down

The county’s two largest law enforcement agencies — the Greenfield Police and Hancock County Sheriff’s departments — decided this year to set aside funds for a detective to focus solely on narcotics investigations, particularly those involving a rising use of heroin.Sheriff’s department officials say they’ve seen significant progress since adding the officer in October, and they expect that success will grow as the Greenfield Police Department hands over narcotic investigations to Detective Sgt. John Cutler in January.Cutler said he already has been working regularly with sheriff’s department’s undercover drug detective, but in 2016, he takes on drug cases full time. It is considered a lateral move for Cutler, who will maintain his $51,700 annual salary.

Their partnership has been phenomenal so far, Cutler said, and he’s eager to make a difference in the county.

Patrolman Michael Schwamberger will take Cutler’s place as a general detective on the investigations team, and the department plans to hire a new officer to replace Schwamberger, Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said.

Currently, Greenfield’s detectives split time between narcotics and other investigations. But drug cases require special dedication, Jester said, and that often means time detectives’ other cases go untouched, sometimes for weeks at a time, as a consequence.

Cutler will serve as the face of the investigations partnership between the departments; he’ll speak at schools, meet with local organizations to educate the public and build relationships with community members who might be able to provide tips about drug activity, Jester said.


horing upThe Greenfield Fire Territory brought on its first full-time fire marshal in November, using funds left after a longtime employee retired. Chief Brian Lott came to the fire department after a 34-year career with the Fishers Fire Department, ready to forge new ground leading a team of trained investigators.After less than a month on the job, Lott handled his first arson investigation which resulted in an arrest — the suspect in the pending case is a man accused of burning down his family’s Greenfield home on Thanksgiving Day.

Arson cases are uncommon in Greenfield, and catching the person responsible proves difficult, officials say.

Having an investigator to dedicate to such cases increases the odds of arresting the person responsible for the crime, Deputy Chief Jason Horning said.

But the bulk of Lott’s work in 2016 will be visiting businesses in the city to conduct fire code inspections, Chief James Roberts said. Lott is trained to spot fire hazards and safety issues, like old fire extinguishers or unmarked exit signs.

For years, building inspection duties fell to fire personnel; but an increased call load in recent years set building inspections behind as firefighters focused on emergency runs. Roberts said his team always visited places like Hancock Regional Hospital, Greenfield-Central Schools’ buildings, day care centers and nursing homes, but a few commercial buildings have had to wait longer than the annual inspection the city prefers.

In 2016, the fire department hopes to have each building in the city back on a more regular inspection schedule, which well make them safer for employees and visitors, Roberts said.

About this series

The Daily Reporter is giving readers a heads-up on 2016. From public safety, to government and education, our looking-ahead series tells you what’s coming up in Hancock County. 

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or