The Herald Bulletin

January 22, 2014

Elwood Police Chief Hanna to resign

Resignation effective

By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin

ELWOOD, Ind. —

Elwood Chief of Police Sam Hanna has announced he will resign his position.

A press release from the office of Mayor Ron Arnold on Wednesday indicated the resignation will be effective Feb. 11. The release reads, "Due to concerns over how the Federal Hatch Act will affect his run for Madison County Sheriff, Chief Sam Hanna has tendered his resignation."

Arnold also tapped current Assistant Chief Phil Caldwell as the new chief after Hanna leaves. According to the release, the transition of day-to-day leadership responsibilities for the department will begin immediately.

On Wednesday, Hanna said he resigned from the position to pursue his bid for the office of Madison County sheriff and to spend more time with his family. The general election to determine who will succeed current Sheriff Ron Richardson will take place in November. Hanna will seek the Republican Party's nomination in the May primary.

"I have been chief of police for last two years, and I have worked with some of the best police I've known in a 40-year career," Hanna said. "The amount of calls they take on daily basis with limited resources, I think they did an awesome job."

After retiring from the Madison County Sheriff's Department, Hanna has served as chief in Elwood for two years, which has been a tumultuous period for the Arnold administration. Over that time, it has been revealed that Arnold is under investigation by the state police for unnamed circumstances and Arnold's three sons have faced legal trouble in three separate incidents, including the arson of the State Plating building in 2012 and allegations of child and drug abuse in 2013.

In 2013, Arnold was also admonished by Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings for continuing to allow Elwood Police Department, and not outside agencies, to investigate incidents involving he and his family. Arnold was also given a "vote of no confidence" by Elwood's Fraternal Order of Police and was asked by four members of the City Council to resign his office.

Hanna's resignation comes days after the termination of Police Department secretary Melissa Brizendine, whom Hanna said was fired without cause. Brizendine is the wife of former Elwood chief Jason Brizendine. At Wednesday's city council meeting, Arnold said Brizendine had not been fired and would be at work today.

Hanna said, despite the incidents of the past year, other career pursuits are his only reason for resigning.

"The letter Rodney Cummings wrote was a good thing. It simply helped the department focus on the things it should be focusing on. We shouldn't be the people investigating our own boss," Hanna said. "And the FOP 'vote of no confidence' involved the mayor, not me.

"Since I've been chief, the department has been very progressive and proactive, and we've made great strides in making Elwood a safe place to live and raise a family."

Hanna said that his first year, he turned 6 percent of the department's budget back into the general fund, while still updating the department's car fleet, uniforms and building the reserve force. His second year, he did the same while returning 3 percent of the budget. He said he was also proud about sending several officers to specialty training schools.

Caldwell, a 27-year police officer and Elwood High School graduate, has lived in Elwood all his life. At Wednesday's City Council meeting, he said he appreciates the opportunity and has many goals and expectations for the department as he starts his new position. Caldwell replaced Detective Scott Bertram as assistant chief in 2013. Hanna said he would work with Caldwell immediately to start turning over responsibilities. 

"I will do whatever I can to help Phil become a successful leader, but it’s going to be up to him to gain the trust of the men working under him," Hanna said.

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