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Bullington appears to have required training

September 28, 2011
The law enforcement saga in Marengo continues as town officials, attorneys and law enforcement officers spar over the training of an officer on the town's police force.

Wayne Bullington, who has a prosthetic leg, has been working as a police officer for the town but came under scrutiny after he failed to complete parts of a training program at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

Bullington worked for several years as a deputy at the Crawford County Sheriff's Department but resigned in the late 1990s. In 2007, he developed an infection in one of his feet, which spread to his leg and made amputation necessary. After being fitted with an artificial leg and learning to use it, he worked as a corrections officer at the Crawford County Jail for a while then was hired as the marshal in his hometown of Marengo. According to state statute, he was required to attend the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy within a year of his hire date. Bullington had completed the training years earlier but was required to retake the program after being out of law enforcement for at least six years.

After failing to complete part of the training, Bullington came back home, but he was kept on the job by town officials who wanted him as their law enforcement officer due to his past job performance and because many residents still supported him. The town passed an ordinance to allow Bullington to skirt some of the requirements and keep his job, but that ordinance has since been rescinded after town officials spoke with their attorney.

At their last meeting, town board members voted to hire Larry Allen, a retired conservation officer, to serve as Marengo marshal which, they said, would allow him to appoint Bullington as a reserve deputy and give him arrest powers, the ability to carry a weapon and use police communications. But that decision was questioned by some.

"I haven't looked at all the documents," Charles Braun, an attorney for the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, said, "and if I were the town's attorney, I would study this in a complete fashion, but, if they've hired Mr. Allen, he'll probably have to take a refresher course within six months of his hire date to stay on as town marshal. But as long as he completes that, there shouldn't be a problem with any of it. And as town marshal, it would be totally legitimate to organize his department as he sees fit."

Braun said there are two types of officers — career officers and non-career officers — and each have their own set of requirements.

"Reserve officers, special deputies and auxiliary officers don't have to attend the academy," Braun said, "but they do have to complete a 40-hour pre-basic training program. So, in order to serve in a capacity of one of those three categories, the officer must have the 40-hour pre-basic plus any other requirements the town issues in an ordinance. They just don't have to participate in the more rigorous training at the academy. I think all of this should be funneled through the town's attorney, but, if done properly, there shouldn't be a problem."

Officers also are required to complete the 40-hour pre-basic training in order to attend the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. Bullington satisfied the 40-hour basic requirement before he went to the academy.

"I've had my pre-basic," Bullington said in a telephone interview Monday. "Lee White, an officer with the Indiana Gaming Commission who used to be police chief in Santa Claus, gave me the physical tactics part of the training and Todd Stinson gave me the firearms part. I had to pass that before I could go to the academy."

Janice Hardwick, an administrative assistant for the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, confirmed that Bullington had completed the 40-hour pre-basic before attending the academy.

"You have to take into consideration that the pre-basic is a minimum requirement," she added. "That gives officers the ability to work as police officers, with arrest and search and seizure powers, for a year before taking their training at the academy. They lose those powers if they fail to complete their training in a year. However, even after a year, they can still serve in a reserve officer position and keep those powers."

Bullington said he regrets leaving law enforcement several years ago.

"I enjoyed being a deputy," he said. "I believe I was a good officer. And I think I can still be a good officer. I feel I can handle it. And this worked out good for the town. I was on Social Security and could come out a couple of times a day, monitor school traffic, then come out later and patrol the streets.

"I've been here all my life and I wouldn't dream of trying to serve on the police force in Louisville or New Albany, but here I can do it just fine. And if I need help, if I'm in over my head, I can call for it — just like any other officer would do if they needed help.

"We deal with a lot of vandalism here and other things that the Indiana State Police don't want to be bothered with," Bullington continued. "They're too busy with bigger crimes. But if someone calls from the elderly housing, maybe it's not real serious, but it can be a life-changing situation for them. I have compassion and time to deal with it, to explain what the law is and even mediate it. Knowing how to handle people is a lot of it.

"I enjoy my job. I want to live a normal life. I'm 55, but I don't want to sit down and do nothing. I don't want to live off the government. I want my job. And I want to work as long as I can."

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