Sergeant Fifield presentation

Sergeant Fifield, public information officer for the Lowell State Police post, presented a history of the Kentland Post 3B to members of the Newton County Historical Society.

KENTLAND - The Newton County Historical Society sponsored a program about the history of the Indiana State Police Kentand Post 3B, which was open in Morocco from 1956 to 1969.

Multiple veterans of the state police were in attendance for the presentation, lending their memories of the post, and a current member of the Indiana State Police from Lowell, Sergeant Glen Fifield, came out to present the history of the Kentland post as was recovered from the Indiana State Police Museum in Indianapolis.

Fifield presented the Newton County Historical Society with an aerial photograph that was taken of Kentland Post 3B when it was operational. The photograph was the only one that the Indiana State Police was in possession of.

Fifield is the current public information officer for the Lowell post, and he has served with the Indiana State Police for 25 years. During his presentation, he spoke on the process of finding information from the museum, which proved to be difficult.

“When I called the Indianapolis historical museum and said, ‘I’m looking for information on the Kentland Post,’” he explained to the crowd, “the young lady there said, ‘Oh. Where? What post are you talking about?’”

Kentland Post 3B was closed in 1969 due to budgeting changes within the Indiana State Police, as well as advancements in radio technology that made it obsolete. When the post was opened, short wave radios required that dispatch centers be open within a certain radius of the coverage area, but after the technology was further developed, the troopers’ radios were able to pick up dispatch from farther distances.

Kentland Post 3B was open for 13 and a half years, serving as a subdivision of Lafayette Post 3, and it served the Benton, Jasper, and Newton areas. According to Fifield, 18 troopers was the greatest number that were ever posted to Kentland.

One of the veterans in attendance, Larry Bartley, spoke on his personal history with Kentland post, having been assigned there in 1964.

“When I arrived at about 8 o’clock that night, all of the troopers they had were there to greet us. They only had four troopers,” he recalled. “There was four of us that came in, and they welcomed us with open arms. They immediately went home and got uniforms for us to wear, because we didn’t have uniforms. We got our gun belt and our gun and nothing else. We were still wearing our grays.”

According to Bartley, when he first arrived at the post, there were two sergeants, a detective, four troopers, and one radio operator assigned. By the time the post closed in 1969, there were six troopers assigned to each of the three counties in the coverage area, but in 1964, there were two troopers assigned to Newton County with Benton and Jasper counties were assigned one trooper each.

“The only reason we had two in Newton County was because 41 went through, and it was a dangerous stretch of highway,” he said. “In ‘65, my first full year of working here, there were 18 fatals on 41, and 10 of them were from Alabama. All 10 of them were wanted by the law. We actually sent a letter to the governor of Alabama, telling him that if he had any more criminals that he wanted to get rid of, to send them to Indiana.”

The Kentland post did see one trooper fatality during its time, with Trooper John Powell being struck on U.S. 41 while laying speed timing devices. He had served with the Indiana State Police for just over four years when his watch ended.

“You have to remember, in 1956, the way they clocked the speed of cars was way different from now,” Fifield said, explaining the circumstances. “They didn’t have radar and all that, so he was putting a rubber strip down across the roadway. When he was bending over putting this down, he was struck by a car and killed at the scene.”

In discussing the technology that was available to the post at the time, Fifield mentioned the innovations in photography that emerged from the Kentland post that were later taken up across the state. The film cameras at the time were not capable of sufficient night photography with standard methods, but a member of the Kentland post was able to adapt.

“If you remember the old Speed Graphic cameras that newspapers used,” shared Bartley, who was a member of the post at the time, “we would take a piece of film that was 4 inches by 5 inches, and what we would do is: we would take a picture with the lens off and use the flash, then we would put the lens back on and have someone go down the road with just the flash. When we were ready to take another picture, we’d take the lens off and use the flash, and we’d have a multiple flash. We called it ‘painting by light.’”

Innovations in technology were not the only thing that Newton County and the post became known for, however, with cases such as the Spilotro brothers, Janice Hartman, and the Newton County John Does. Bartley was an investigator on the Janice Hartman case when her remains were first recovered.

During a round of questions from the crowd, Fifield explained the cases in which the state police will get involved in a local investigation. He shared that the state police only comes in when they are requested to by local law enforcement and that there is not a case in which local investigators will be shut out of a dual investigation.

“On larger-scale things it just makes sense for agencies to ask us to come in and help, because we have more manpower, better technology, and more resources,” he said. “If it’s something that’s just over their heads and they don’t have the resources to handle it, then we’ll take it over for them.”

Fifield went on to discuss the current number of troopers in the Indiana State Police program, saying that there are approximately 1,500 troopers, with 700 of them being on-the-road officers. He said that the state police are currently short 250 troopers.

He additionally shared that applicants to the state police are only required to have their high school diploma, and that they must be at least 21 and under 40 years of age upon graduating from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, which is a 21-week program.

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