Harrison Co. officers under fire again over crashed company car

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by Melanie Kahn

WHAS11.com

Posted on December 17, 2009 at 12:47 AM

In a county that already has several investigations about law enforcement, there's yet another investigation.

A Harrison County, Indiana deputy on unpaid leave crashed his county-owned vehicle in Shelby County, Kentucky and some officials say he never should have been driving it.

Harrison County Officer John Britton has been on unpaid leave for the past few months pending the outcome of a potential civil suit and a special grand jury that will look into whether or not he was at fault in the death of his wife, Christine, in March.

During that time, he's apparently still driving a county police car more than 150 miles a day.

"A vehicle had come off of the 32B ramp as he got on top of the overpass, spun around and had spun around and had bumped into the overpass the top of it barely hit into a concrete barrier that sits up several inches, just bumped into it with both wheels," said Shelby County Sheriff Mike Armstrong describing the accident his deputies responded to this past Sunday in Shelby County.

In Sunday’s crash, Armstrong says no report was filed at the request of Harrison County Sheriff Mike Deatrick.

"Mr. Britton contacted the Sheriff to see what he needed to do.  There was no damage to the overpass at all, nobody else involved and they were informed by the deputy that the Sheriff stated that he did not need a report," said Armstrong saying it is against the policy of his department.

"My policy in my department is if any of my deputies have an accident I do a report.  We have somebody do a report, we do not do it ourselves, but we do have somebody do a report. No matter what."

The car was towed to a body shop, where the damage is estimated to be $3000.

Harrison County Commissioner James Goldman says he's shocked.

"We have to wonder why a person would even have access to a vehicle while he was on administrative leave," said Goldman. "He should have been in his own personal vehicle if he was doing anything cause I know he wasn't doing county business.  He couldn't have been."

But it appears that Britton wasn't only driving his county car in Shelbyville.

"We did find that the vehicle had been traveling approximately 172 miles a day for the past 30 days," said Goldman.

We have not been able to reach Sheriff Deatrick, but he told the Corydon Democrat, "According to our tri-county policy, all of our officers are free to go to Clark, Floyd and Crawford counties and not say anything, and if they are going out of state, they are supposed to ask me first. John asked me if he could use the car, and I said he could."

"It certainly was not with the consent of the commissioners.  We thought that the car should have been parked," said Goldman. "We are doing our investigation into it we know that the car has been driven excessive amount of miles for someone who shouldn't even have been driving at all in our opinion."

Now, the car is at a body shop and the commissioners say it won't be released to the sheriff or anyone without their express permission.

Meanwhile, this all happens as Sheriff Deatrick is facing his own investigation.

A grand jury has been convening after Deatrick was accused of sexual harassment and other potentially criminal acts.

Sources tell WHAS11 News that the grand jury, which started meeting last month, may not decide on whether Deatrick should be indicted until January.

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