Commission to promote transparency in police matters

CUMBERLAND — Cumberland officials recently established a board of local residents who will oversee the police department — a move to encourage public transparency and help establish better benefits for officers on the force.

The town’s police commission, a three-member board the town council voted to establish, is responsible for overseeing all police personnel, including officers and the police chief. One of the board’s first challenges will be to review the department’s policies and set up a new pension program for its officers, Cumberland Chief Mike Crooke said.

By setting up the new program, officers will be eligible to receive more generous pension packages based on their performance, he said.

Crooke said he hopes to have the new pension program established by July 1.

Before the department becomes eligible for the new program, the department’s 25 officers will all need to complete a mental and physical evaluation, Crooke said.

The families of officers who are injured or killed in the line of duty will also be eligible to receive larger payouts than the previous program offered. The specific figures will depend on how long an officer has been a part of the department, he said.

By establishing the new plan, Crooke hopes it will encourage officers to remain on the force for the duration of their careers.

Cumberland town council president Joe Siefker said the new board will be responsible for interviewing for open positions, as well as handling officer evaluations and promotions.

The Fortville Police Department is the only other local police department to establish a board of commissioners.

That department’s commission, which was formed in 2014, provides another layer of perspective to the department, providing a sounding board for changes, said Fortville Chief Bill Knauer.

“It gives you a range of different personalities,” Knauer said. “So when we change policies and procedures, they have input from a citizen’s perspective.”

Crooke said the new board will promote transparency within the department, as the majority of the board’s meetings will be open to the public.

Previously, the department conducted most performance reviews in-house; this will bring a higher degree of examination, he said.

Members of the police commission include Breck Terheide, Kimberly Diltin and Louise Edwards, all Cumberland residents who were appointed by the town council.

The board meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Cumberland Town Hall, 11510 E. Washington St.

Eventually, the board might begin meeting quarterly, depending on how much business needs to be addressed, Crooke said.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.