A Seymour police officer charged with drunken driving following a wreck in Salem last Wednesday is on administrative leave with pay pending an internal investigation.
And an unwritten policy that allowed School Resource Officer John Newcomb to be hauling a department trailer decorated with DARE logos at the time of the wreck has apparently reached an end.
Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said Friday that Newcomb, 38, was placed on leave pending completion of an internal police investigation, which will then be turned over to the department's Complaint Review Board.
That board, made up of two police officers and three civilians, will then make a recommendation to Abbott.
"Once I get the review board's report, I'll make a decision and take a recommendation to the (Seymour Board of Public Works and Safety's) next meeting on Aug. 11," he added.
That date coincides with the first day of classes for students at Seymour Community Schools, where Newcomb has served as resource officer.
Abbott said the department will have an officer available that day.
"We have three officers qualified through the National Association of School Resource Officers," Abbott said. "We've spoken with (Principal) Greg Prange, and we will still have a resource officer at Seymour High School."
Does Abbott expect Newcomb to resign?
"I don't know yet," Abbott said. "We've talked, and he has until Aug. 11 to make a decision. Otherwise, I'll be taking a recommendation to the Board of Works that day."
He said Newcomb has been an "exceptional" officer since joining the department in 2007. Before that, he worked 10 years as an officer with Salem Police Department.
"I've not had any disciplinary problems with him," Abbott said. "He does good investigations. I don't have to stand over him.
"Obviously, this time he made a super, extremely bad decision," he added. "He knows better. There's no excuse for it. There's no excuse for what happened."
Abbott declined to share Newcomb's explanation of what unfolded Wednesday night. According to the Indiana State Police, Newcomb was northbound on Main Street or Indiana 135 in Salem when he sideswiped a 1994 Pontiac Firebird and left the road, striking a tree, around 10:20 p.m.
Newcomb was injured, and his 1992 Ford Ranger and the DARE trailer were damaged, police said. Newcomb, who declined medical treatment, was booked into the Washington County Jail early Thursday morning and released on $300 cash bond at 8:47 a.m. Thursday.
Questioned about Newcomb's possession of the DARE trailer, Abbott said Newcomb had permission to use it that night.
"He was moving from Salem to Seymour and asked permission to move some furniture and personal belongings," Abbott said. "The ranking officer allowed him to borrow it."
Abbott said there is no written policy that governs the use of department equipment.
"It's not used very often like that, and this pretty well puts a stop to anything being borrowed from the Seymour Police Department," Abbott said.
He said the trailer will likely be a total loss.
"The tongue is bent, and there's damage to the front where it hit the back of his pickup," Abbott said.
The trailer was taken to Salem Wrecker after the crash, but it was expected to be towed to Seymour on Friday, Abbott said.
Abbott said he thought the trailer was bought with drug seizure money. It's used for a variety of purposes, he said, including hauling DARE soap box derby cars, traffic cones and other equipment for bicycle rodeos and other purposes.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service