CLIFFORD — Clifford’s town marshal was in need of a patrol car. But now that one has been donated, the town needs a new marshal.
The town council in this small northern Bartholomew County town has accepted a donated police car from the Crothersville Police Department. But former Clifford town marshal Charlie DeWeese, who had been patrolling the town in his own personal vehicle, is no longer in the town marshal role.
“Right now that’s not up for discussion,” said Danny James, Clifford Town Council president.
DeWeese has said he is in legal negotiations with the town over his role as town marshal, an unpaid job for years, and can’t comment about the matter. He said he has not resigned, but he is also not patrolling.
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Meanwhile, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department is providing patrols for the town, James said.
The possibility of Clifford having its own police car materialized after a Republic story in December about DeWeese patrolling in his personal vehicle, a 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer, as town council members continued to search for a police vehicle after the old one stopped running.
DeWeese’s Trailblazer wasn’t equipped with flashing lights and sirens, so he couldn’t make traffic stops or transport anyone to jail. In those circumstances, he had to call the sheriff’s department for assistance.
Someone passed the story along to the Crothersville Police Department, which had a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria that had been in use from 2012 to 2016 but was retired after the department purchased new vehicles.
Chief Brent Turner said he planned on getting rid of the car, but when he read a story about Clifford’s town marshal having to use his personal vehicle on the job, he proposed donating the car to Clifford.
“We’ve got three cars here we’re not using,” Turner said. “Being from a small police department, when I was in Medora, I knew how it was not having a car. You can’t do your job.”
Turner shared the story with Capt. J.L. McElfresh, who runs MAC Lighting Solutions with his brother, Travis, and asked if they could help with decals and lighting for the police car.
First, they removed the Crothersville decals and replaced them with new ones for Clifford. Then they put the lighting bar back on the car and a couple of other lights, and they reinstalled the console.
Since it had a bad battery, they took one from another decommissioned police car. It was bad, too but still was under warranty, so they were able to swap it out for a new one.
McElfresh, whose team invested about 12 hours on the project, said he was happy to help another police department.
“Whether it’s through the police department here in my capacity or through our business, being able to help a police department get a vehicle that they can use, it means a lot to us,” he said. “When Brent called and asked us, I didn’t hesitate to say we would do it.”
The Crown Victoria has 107,000 miles on it, but Turner said it should serve Clifford’s needs.
Turner also learned DeWeese didn’t get paid for being the only police officer for the town of 235. At one time, DeWeese was paid nearly $4,000 a year. Three years ago, though, the town’s finances tightened, and he and town officials agreed to not take any salary.
DeWeese, who started as town marshal in 1993, previously would buy his own police vehicle and lease the car to the town for $1.
Several years ago, he agreed with the town council to switch to a different plan, which involved accepting one of the sheriff’s department’s soon-to-be retired road deputy vehicles, using it until it would no longer run and returning it to the county to be auctioned.
Now, the sheriff’s department is keeping its cars up to 150,000 miles, and they aren’t in good enough shape at that point even for a town marshal’s use, James said.
The amount of money the town put into the last car it received from the county could not be justified because the town didn’t receive anything when it turned the vehicle back over to the county, James said.
The last vehicle Clifford had been using from the county, a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria, stopped running about six months ago when it blew a head gasket and the engine needed to be replaced, DeWeese said.
He already had put a set of new tires on the car, at about $500 out of his own pocket, and outfitted the car with lights valued at about $1,200, also from his own money, he said.
The town had earlier replaced the transmission in the car and rebuilt the front end at a cost of more than $4,000, James said. The cost of the new engine and installation, estimated at up to $5,500, exceeded the car’s value, James said.
Crothersville’s donation, though, gives Clifford just what it needs.
“We’re just glad that we could help somebody out,” Foster said.
— Zach Spicer, a staff writer for The Tribune of Seymour, contributed to this story.