State Representative Stephen Bartels and Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch hosted their second summit at Patoka Lake Winery on Friday.
But this time, it was law enforcement’s turn to share their concerns.
Sheriffs from the surrounding counties say one big concern they see in their jails on a daily basis is mental health and substance abuse.
Bartels explains what the steps the state is taking to fight it head-on.
“As a former law enforcement officer, I know that there are people incarcerated who really need help with their mental health over being a criminal. This is kind of hard because there’s really no facility to take them to in a lot of these small communities. We are going to look at different options where these people can get some help” he says.
And this is not the only action the representative is taking. Bartels is also working on a bill called the “Police Enhancement Bill”.
“One step we are taking is looking at how we can provide a little bit more money to this mental health issue. We’re also looking into how officers and dispatchers can be trained to talk and help individuals with these issues,” he says.
This bill would not only help jails with supplying supportive services for inmates struggling with mental health. Bartels also says it would help hold the police accountable.
“Part of the bill talks about a different procedure for decertifying police officers so they can’t just go to another department or go to another state if they break the rules. And I think that good officers and departments want to see something like that. They don’t want an officer that may be slightly substandard to continue on somewhere else,” he says.
The sheriffs also shared their concerns about jail overcrowding. This not only affects the jails in southwestern Indiana. Bartels says that it’s a statewide issue and explains how they are approaching the problem.
“One of the solutions we’ve been looking at is this regional jail concept A lot of jails are overcrowded because of level 6 felons staying at local jails. So we’re really looking at lots of different options and also looking at some deferred time on sentencing,” he says.
The next item sheriffs and local law enforcement brought up for discussion were veteran officers. Some of the older officers are having trouble with the technology that is now required for their job. But Bartels says some projects to help this are in the works.
“We’re looking at doing some more training as our veteran’s service officers are becoming older. We need to teach them some computer skills since a lot of these programs are all computer-based,” he says.
This was the second summit held this week. Representative Bartels and Lieutenant Governor Crouch also held a summit on Thursday that focused on community needs.
To learn more about what was discussed at Thursday’s summit: Representative Bartels and Lieutenant Governor Crouch hear about community needs during summit