INDIANAPOLIS — Greenfield’s police chief has earned a state award for the transparency he showed while his department was under investigation following an officer-involved death.
The Hoosier State Press Association awarded Greenfield Police Chief Jeff Rasche the Frank O’Bannon Sunshine Award on Saturday during the press association’s annual banquet.
The association, which represents newspapers across Indiana, honored Rasche for his openness with the community when an Indianapolis man died after being shot with a Taser by two Greenfield officers in May.
Rasche was nominated for the honor by the staff of the Daily Reporter.
The O’Bannon Sunshine Award is presented each year to an individual, group or organization that has demonstrated outstanding efforts to ensure government transparency, according to the press association’s website.
The honor is named for the late Indiana governor Frank O’Bannon, who was hailed through the years as an advocate for open government. O’Bannon created a special state office designed to help educate and mediate issues concerning the state’s open door laws.
Last spring, 48-year-old Douglas Wiggington of Indianapolis died after a scuffle with two Greenfield patrol officers. Wiggington — who had lethal amounts of cocaine and meth, toxicology screens later showed — was shot with a Taser after he became combative. He later died at an area hospital, police said.
Greenfield’s internal investigation of the incident found that neither officer acted inappropriately; but it also revealed irregular department training policies and devices that were 13 years old.
Rasche, who had been serving as Greenfield’s chief for just five months at the time, came to the Daily Reporter with records showing what he called a “shortfall” in the department’s policies.
Rasche promised the community he had plans to better the department. He required all his officers to immediately retrain with their Tasers and requested $100,000 to update the department’s weapons — funding the city awarded him.
While presenting Rasche the award, Steve Key, the executive director of the press association, called him and others who have received the recognition “golden apples” of civil service.
When picking a winner from those nominated for the sunshine award, the press association looks for government employees, elected officials and everyday citizens who fight for openness and access to public records in their community.
Rasche exemplifies those qualities, Key said.
Speaking briefly during the banquet, Rasche thanked the press association for the recognition and the journalists gathered that day for the work they do in their communities.
Wiggington’s death was a “very difficult time in (his) very new career” with the city, and having a positive relationship with the Daily Reporter helped him weather that storm, Rasche said.
Rasche joins former State Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, as the second local recipient of the sunshine award. Gard was honored in 2008 along with former State Rep. Russ Stilwell, D-Boonville, for authoring legislation that closed a loophole in Indiana’s Open Door Law.
The Daily Reporter staff earned a number of awards at Saturday’s Hoosier State Press Association annual banquet. For more, see AX.