By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw
WINONA LAKE — Winona Lake is increasing its police force thanks in part to Lakeland Christian Academy.
The town will increase its number of officers from six to seven with the addition of Phil Hawks who was sworn in Tuesday night.
The increase was sought by Lakeland Christian where officials had been wanting a full-time school resource officers for several years. The school had been relying on a collection of rotating officers who provided about 20 hours of coverage per week.
A recent incident in Kentucky proved to be the tipping point for school officials in Winona Lake. The school reached out to the town soon after the mass shooting at a bank in Louisville on April 10 that left five people dead.
Town manager Craig Allebach said school superintendent Joe Elrod contacted Police Chief Joe Hawn.
“It was on the back burner and then after the recent shootings in Louisville, Joe called Joe the next day and said we need to get a school resource officer out here full-time,” Allebach said.
Hawn said the additional officer will be a welcome presence during the summer.
“We’ll have him for June, July and August, which is our busiest months because of all the festivals, all the activities that we have in here, which will help us out tremendously,” Hawn said.
The school will cover 80 percent of the cost and Lakeland will cover the rest.
The town will initially use opioid settlement money to cover its share of the cost for the remaining portion of this year’s salary.
In a related note, the town also swore in its newest reserve officer, Mike Wilson.
Wilson is a former fire chief with Warsaw-Wayne Fire territory. He and his wife own McHatton-Sadler Funeral Chapels.