On the evening of October 26, 2023, our community received an informative and engaging session about the inner workings of Merrillville’s Police Department and the historical evolution of policing in America dating back to the early 1800s. Police Chief Kosta Nuses provided a comprehensive overview of the department’s operations, detailing the various divisions required for a modern police force. He also shed light on the substantial costs associated with contemporary policing, including advanced communication devices, computers, and the expensive police vehicles that he aptly described as an officer’s ‘rolling office.’
Interim Town Manager Michael Griffin commenced the event by delivering a captivating historical account of policing in the United States, tracing its roots back to the early 1800s. He highlighted the influence of the Metropolitan Police Department of London, England, on the organization of U.S. police departments. The earliest American police departments emerged in Boston in 1838, followed by New York City, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia in the subsequent years. Griffin, drawing on his expertise as an adjunct professor, expertly engaged the audience.
Chief Nuses then transitioned to the modern landscape of policing, emphasizing the vast differences between contemporary law enforcement and the mid-1800s. He succinctly defined the police department as a state institution responsible for crime detection and prevention, as well as ensuring safety, security, and peace. While these goals may sound straightforward, the reality is far from simple and, importantly, quite costly.
The Chief elaborated that Merrillville’s police department, comprising 61 sworn police officers, requires slightly over 50% of the town’s general fund budget to operate, necessitating approximately $7 million in funds to provide comprehensive police services. Patrol Commander Josh Miskus joined the discussion to offer insights into the duties of the Patrol Division, which serves as the backbone of any police department and typically serves as the first point of contact for residents in need of police services. The audience actively participated in this segment, with numerous questions fielded and comprehensive responses provided.
The perennial issue of speeding and reckless driving was also addressed by Chief Nuses, who emphasized their commitment to addressing these concerns. The Town Council has allocated overtime funding to support special patrols targeting these issues, recognizing that these challenges extend beyond Merrillville to a nationwide problem.
Detective-Commander Matt Vasel then illuminated the functions of the Investigation Bureau, shedding light on how unexpected events can disrupt the department’s operations. He explained the need to prioritize cases based on their severity, sometimes requiring officers to work around the clock. Vasel commended the Patrol Division’s pivotal role, as many cases originate from their initial interactions with residents or visitors who may later become involved in criminal activities.
The event culminated with a captivating demonstration featuring our Canine Officer Yaga and his handler, Officer Fultz. Chief Nuses even donned a padded suit to play the “bad guy” for the demonstration, despite its somewhat snug fit, illustrating the impressive capabilities of police dogs. Merrillville is fortunate to have four K9s, ensuring their availability during each patrol shift.
The live-action began with Officer Fultz giving the command to Yaga to apprehend Chief Nuses, showcasing the speed and effectiveness of these remarkable dogs. Despite Chief Nuses’ attempts to evade, Yaga swiftly immobilized him. The demonstration provided a firsthand understanding of the K9 program’s value in department operations.
Residents had the opportunity to interact with Officer Fultz and Yaga, learning about Yaga’s diet of raw chicken and the generous donations that support the K9 program’s expenses. Chief Nuses’ courage in participating in the demonstration highlighted the importance of these dogs in our department and underscored his role in revitalizing the K9 program at MPD.
Although our turnout was modest, the audience thoroughly enjoyed the presentations, and we’re committed to continuing the Town Talk program as a means of enhancing communication with our residents. Please feel free to share this post with anyone.
-Councilman Rick Bella, Town Council President