KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. — Why is the Knightstown Police Chief picking up trash on the side of the road wearing a baseball cap and jeans?
“Because they are paying me to be off work and I don’t think that’s right, so I am earning the taxpayers' money,” said Chief Chris Newkirk.
The town council decided to put Newkirk on paid administrative leave last Thursday night.
He said he didn't know it was happening until he showed up to the station and they were changing the locks.
“I honestly have no idea where they got their information, what their information is, or what their concerns are, it was never expressed to me,” said Newkirk.
He said the council told him it had to do with his medical condition, and he will need to pass a fitness test to return.
“It would have to be some type of false information or something unrelated because my health has been fine,” said Newkirk.
He said he still has sick days left and he’s never violated sick time policies.
“I think we need to talk to people and communicate and let people know what is going on especially when you are putting them off work,” said Newkirk.
Council Member Landon Dean told us he would love to explain, but town attorney Greg Morelock advised the council against it. We were unable to get in touch with Morelock. His secretary said he was out of the office.
Jaymie Moss owns the Burch Tree Bakery right by the town council building and the Knightstown Police Station. She said Chief Newkirk helped her and other business owners restore parking spaces taken by the council.
“He cares about the community and he wants to be able to work for this community and he has done a lot of good since he’s been here,” said Moss.
She signed a community petition to get him back to work.
“I would like to see him reinstated because what’s going to happen is, they are going to lose him," said Moss. "And he’s a big asset to this community and we can’t afford to lose him.”
She thinks the fact he is doing community service on leave says a lot about his good character and his health.
“If he can do that, he can do his job," said Moss. "The job that they [the council] hired him to do.”
Newkirk said he beat cancer twice and survived a heart attack, but he is well enough to work right now.
“I’ll be doing something for the community for 40 hours a week," said Newkirk. "As long as they are going to pay me, I’m not going to sit at home and take the taxpayers' money.”
Newkirk said he would love to return to work but he hasn’t even been told if or when that fitness test has been scheduled.