Dr. Robert A. Percival remembers when Brown County only had a sheriff and one part-time deputy who worked in a jail in downtown Nashville that was attached to the courthouse.
That was 1971, when Percival was called to be one of the four founding members of the Brown County Sheriff’s Department Merit Board. There are now five members, and Percival is the last original one.
That old yellow brick jail was eventually closed as a result of a class action lawsuit with former prisoners and the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. After years of public debate and failed state inspections, the county built a new one. In early 2010, the old jail was demolished.
The county now has 17 deputies including a Cordry Sweetwater lakes division, 14 jailers and a host of volunteer officers.
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After 45 years of service, Percival said he is leaving the merit board and local law enforcement in better shape than he found it.
“I am proud of what they’ve done in the county to upgrade law enforcement,” he said.
The merit board meets monthly. Two members are appointed by deputies and three by the sheriff.
That group is in charge of settling disciplinary complaints against officers, hiring new deputies and approving deputy promotions.
Percival has had to decide the future of many deputies’ careers during his time on the board — cases he declined to talk about. “But, life is making decisions,” he said.
Before his retirement cake was cut July 20 and Sheriff Scott Southerland presented him a plaque, Percival had something to say: “Do the best you can for your county. Do the best you can, guys, for your department, and do the best that you can for the people, and you’ll never have to hang your head.”
Southerland picked Stephanie Yager as Percival’s replacement. She served as a Brown County commissioner from 2005 to 2008 and is currently the executive director of the Indiana Association of County Commissioners.
Percival said he won’t be a stranger to local law enforcement.
“I’ll still see them, and I’ll wave to them when I see their cars,” he said.