Chief deputy ends tenure with county sheriff’s department

After 18 months with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and 30 years with the state police, Chief Deputy Mike Morris is moving on to the private sector. His last day was July 1.

“He was tireless. It was hard to get him to go home. He worked so hard and did so many things for the department that will have a lasting impact for years to come,” Sheriff Scott Southerland said. “There will be in a hole in the department that will be hard to fill.”

 

Brad Stogsdill
Brad Stogsdill

Morris announced his resignation in a June 12 letter to the Brown County Democrat.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to all the citizens of Brown County for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your chief deputy with the sheriff’s office for the past 18 months,” he wrote. “I am humbled by your hospitality and acceptance. I truly hope I have served you well.”

Family tragedies influenced his decision to leave, he said.

Morris lost his sister three years ago and in a year he has lost his father, brother and other sister.

“It makes you sit back and take stock. I think it’s one of those things where tomorrow is never guaranteed and I need to focus on family. It’s been pretty rough the year-and-a-half losing everybody,” he said.

Some accomplishments Morris achieved as chief deputy include starting the department’s naloxone program and getting officers trained and equipped with the overdose prevention drug. He also managed to get funding the department needed for equipment.

“I hope that I helped make it a better working environment for all of the employees and helped lead the department in a progressive direction. If I was able to do that plus serve the community well then it was time very well spent,” Morris said of his time with the department.

Morris served three years in the Army as military police before spending about 30 years working for the Indiana State Police on a broad array of investigations, both undercover and as the lead investigator.

Southerland picked Morris as his chief deputy because he admired his professional ethics and his work ethic.

“There was no doubt that he would be a great asset for Brown County to have,” he said.

Wanting to serve his own community rather than 92 Indiana counties helped Morris to decide to serve as the chief deputy, he said.

“I just felt the need to serve my own community more,” he said.

Lasting impact

As chief deputy, Morris went through more than 100 banker boxes full of records in the basement of the Brown County Law Enforcement Center, dating back to the 1980s.Morris sorted all of them, figuring out the retention schedule and determined which the department could get rid of, Southerland said.

The department was able to purge 117 boxes of archaic files that were no longer needed, Morris added.

Morris and his wife also spent time in the basement going through a large pile of uniforms, hanging them up and organizing them by size.

“I believe in being fiscally responsible and if someone comes and they need a new pair of pants, I think we need to look downstairs and see if we have a pair of pants before we go spending taxpayer dollars,” Morris said.

Saving money is what Morris had in mind when he provided higher quality footwear and pants for the officers.

Better footwear meant less pressure on the deputies’ feet, back and joints, which results in less sick time, and the boots can be worn for a longer period of time. Higher quality pants meant deputies weren’t snagging or ripping their pants as much when they were out in the woods — which is almost daily, Morris said.

Morris prided himself on being a working chief deputy.

When there weren’t enough officers to patrol the roads or not enough staff in the jail, Morris filled in. If he was in the office and someone came in needing to be fingerprinted for a gun permit, Morris would step in to keep the deputies on the road.

He also worked with jail commander Tony Sciscoe to put microwaves in cell blocks and additional channels on the TVs. The addition of microwaves also meant the addition of products the department could sell in commissary.

Moving forward

Southerland has named Lt. Brad Stogsdill as the next chief deputy.

“In the last year-and-a-half since I have been sheriff, he has really stepped up and done a good job for us,” Southerland said.

Stogsdill said he is honored to be stepping into the position.

“I know there’s always work to be done and always improvements to do. I am just willing to jump in and do whatever is necessary to make it a good work place for all the employees there and a good department that this community can be proud of,” he said.

Stogsdill has began assuming some of Morris’ duties since started working nights to finish his open cases.

“I’ve worked basically here my whole adult life, so it’s a very honored position. I am already finding out it’s going to be a very busy position,” he said. “I am honored to serve this county, the community and Sheriff Southerland in that aspect. I am happy that he asked me.”

Southerland and Stogsdill ran against each other in sheriff primary races in 2010 and 2014. Stogsdill defeated Southerland in the 2010 primary, while Southerland received the Republican nomination in 2014.

The two are looking forward to working together as sheriff and chief deputy.

“We’ve got a lot of good ideas. I know that our hearts are in the right place. That’s half the battle right there. I know we both feel we can help out everybody and keep them highly trained and motivated and doing a good job,” Stogsdill said.

Morris was responsible for investigating sex crimes. Southerland is considering picking a merit sheriff’s deputy to take the training necessary to complete those investigations, and having that deputy be responsible for those cases rather than the chief deputy.

“It will take a lot of training to get to the point where they can work the child molestation cases,” Southerland said.

“It’s so important to the victim and the family that it is done right and thoroughly, so at the end of the day, there is no question they are not going to answer.”

As his time with the department nears an end, Morris said he appreciates all of those who voted for him and Southerland.

“I certainly want to tell them thanks. I appreciate their vote of confidence, but it’s come to an end,” he said.

Morris accomplishments outside of Brown County

Former Brown County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Mike Morris served three years in the Army as military police before spending about 30 years working for the Indiana State Police in the major drug section for the Indiana State Police.

He also was involved in a broad array of investigations as both a lead and undercover investigator, he said.

“My expertise was more in a covert manner, developing probable cause and gathering facts,” he said.

From murders to burglaries to sexual assaults, Morris was the lead investigator on various different kinds of cases with the ISP.

He has been a member of multiple task forces centered around issues like violent felons possessing firearms and hunting down and arresting wanted violent felons. Morris and his partner at the time received an award for arresting 126 wanted felons in 12 weeks.

His investigations have taken him outside of Indiana to as far away as Texas, Kansas and New York City, he said.

Morris is also a certified master trainer with police dogs. He is a civilian trainer which means he had to have a full background check and prove he was a qualified trainer, he said.

He’s also taught courses at the Indiana State Police Law Enforcement Academy Recruit School.

Sheriff Scott Southerland had worked with Morris since the mid-1990s on drug cases. Morris was actually invited to Brown County by former Sheriff Dave Anderson to train Southerland on how to conduct narcotics investigations.

He also investigated organized crime as both a lead and undercover investigator.

“I’ve been very fortunate in that I had a lot of opportunities that your average state trooper doesn’t get,” Morris said.