We hope county commissioners and county council members paid attention to last weekend’s story by our new reporter, Sara Barker.

She outlined the problems local sheriff’s departments face in attracting candidates to work as deputies and then retaining them after they are hired.

Pay rates are only part of the problem, but they’re a part that county leaders can control.

Local sheriffs say they’re facing high turnover rates as officers leave for departments with better salaries.

One sheriff’s department has changed from 8-hour to 12-hour shifts. That creates the risk of an officer being affected by fatigue while making life-or-death decisions.

High turnover also means that experienced officers continually are being replaced by those with less experience.

County leaders should be able to appreciate the simple economics of the situation.

“It costs us conservatively about $60,000-$65,000 for a new officer to put them on the street through their probationary year,” Kendallville Police Chief Rob Wiley said. “That includes the academy, all of their field training time. ... That’s a significant investment we make in them monetarily and experience-wise.”

After investing $60,000 to train a police officer, it seems unwise to lose that officer because a county is lagging a few thousand dollars behind in its pay scale.

One department makes officers sign contracts requiring them to pay back a few thousand dollars of their training costs if they leave the force before working three years. That barely makes up for the city or county’s lost investment, and likely deters few officers from leaving for better pay.

We hope county and city leaders are paying attention to the high price communities around the nation are paying when inexperienced officers react inappropriately in tense situations.

We are encouraged to hear LaGrange County Sheriff Jeff Campos describe the extensive screening process for a candidate to become one of his deputies. Candidates who can pass that scrutiny and who are willing to face danger every day put themselves in a special class of employee.

When we give law enforcement officers the powers of life or death — and of freedom or incarceration — we need people with outstanding training and judgment, not to mention experience.

County councils will be gathering in the next few weeks to make decisions about budgets and pay rates for 2020. We hope they listen carefully to the plight of their sheriffs and recognize that deputies are valuable employees who are in high demand by departments that are eager to lure them away.

Hoosiers rank high in vaping

This month brought the disturbing news that Hoosiers rank third in the nation in vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study reported that nationwide, 3.6 million middle- and high-school students are using the new substitutes for tobacco.

If Hoosier adults rank near the top in vaping, it’s likely that our teenagers do, too.

Vapes, which include e-cigarettes, don’t have the unhealthy smoke and tar of physical tobacco, but do contain the highly addictive chemical nicotine found in cigarettes or cigars. Almost certainly, however, it is healthier to avoid vaping. One expert says diacetyl, found in many e-cigarettes, can lead to lung scarring and narrowed airways if inhaled.

Compounding the problem, the vaping industry seems to be marketing itself to attract young customers as new users.

Some vape cartridges can contain enough nicotine to roughly equal a pack of cigarettes, says Jon Macy, an associate professor at Indiana University-Bloomington, who specializes in public health policy and tobacco use, cessation and prevention.

Indiana legislators need to address this new threat to Hoosier teenagers. Lawmakers disappointed many this year when they failed to make any attempt to reduce Indiana’s high rate of smoking.

At the very least, we hope 2020 will see support for educating Hoosier teens about the dangers before they become hooked on vaping.

OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board. We welcome readers’ comments.

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