Greenwood Police Chief John Laut Retires
Photographer / Amy Payne
Greenwood Police Chief John Laut is retiring after more than three decades with the Greenwood Police Department (GPD), and he says throughout his career in law enforcement, he has thoroughly enjoyed working in the Greenwood community.
Laut began with the GPD in 1988. A career in law enforcement was something he aspired to from a young age.
“I became interested in law enforcement after being involved with the Indianapolis Police Explorers,” Laut says, referring to a local program that gives young people an opportunity to explore careers in law enforcement. “I was 15 years old at the time.”
Through the years Laut was promoted to detective, and then became the GPD police chief eight years ago.
Laut says he has several memorable stories from his years with the Greenwood Police Department.
“There are so many, I really don’t know where to begin,” Laut says. “There was an instance when a child was sexually abused by her grandfather. She called 911, and when I arrived she jumped up into my arms. I really felt that I was helping her.”
He also recalls a situation involving a car that was stolen from a bar in Greenwood.
“The car was recovered burning, by Indianapolis police, at a gentlemen’s bar off Madison Avenue, and the car was burned,” Laut says. “While I was talking to Indianapolis police, several dancers ran out semi-clothed, and told us about a person attempting to break into the bar’s office. Lo and behold, it was my suspect in the vehicle theft.”
His worst memory with the force happened on a cold January night.
“I was kneeling beside a fellow officer, holding his hand and head out of the slush,” Laut says. “He had been shot, and we were waiting on the ambulance.”
As a detective, Laut solved two homicides and several major white-collar crime cases.
“One [case] involved an auto retail business, and it ended up being one of the first mortgage fraud cases in Indiana,” Laut says. “I worked closely with the FBI on that case, and the agent I worked with ended up working hundreds of mortgage fraud cases.
Through the years Laut has seen many positive changes in the Greenwood community.
“The people of Greenwood are great,” Laut says. “Mayor Myers has made the adding of police officers one of his priorities. In 2012, we had just over 50 officers. We were terribly understaffed. The mayor and the City Council have added police positions, and we have excellent equipment.”
Laut says technology has played a positive role in helping police officers.
“In 1988 we carried six-shot revolvers, a night stick, a shotgun and a radio,” Laut says. “We now have semi-automatic pistols, tasers, O.C. spray, rifles and radios. The cars are equipped with computers and GPS. Patrol cars are safer, and perform much better than the 1987 models. Officers receive better training, and since police work is ever-changing, they are better equipped to deal with police matters.”
As police chief, Laut also made his own positive changes.
“We went to 12-hour shifts, which allow officers to have every other weekend off,” Laut says. “It also helped with our staffing levels. One of the biggest changes was going to body-worn cameras. In 2012 only a few of the police cars still had cameras. When we looked for a solution, body-worn cameras were just starting. We made the change, and were one of the first agencies in Indiana to equip officers with the cameras. We have made staffing changes and added a criminal analyst. With that position, we now have crime mapping and statistical data that helps with patrol and detectives.”
Laut acknowledges one problem he didn’t see coming.
“The one thing I never anticipated was the coyote conundrum,” he says. “We developed a coyote spotting map after several pets were killed. The only thing we could really do was inform the public on methods of keeping their pets safe, and if coyotes were in their neighborhood.”
Laut is amazed at how much Greenwood has grown through the years.
“In 1988 the population was just under 18,000,” he says of Greenwood. “We are now close to 60,000. The geographical size of the city has grown. When I was on night shift in the early ’90s, only a few businesses were open, even for eating. That has changed so much.”
Laut says he has no definite plans for what he will do during his retirement.
“I have several balls up in the air, and I’m going to decide later,” he says.
Laut credits his family for their support over the years.
“My wife Molly has traveled with me through my entire career,” Laut says. “I never realized what it was like to see a loved one walk out the door and go on the job. I learned that empty-gut feeling the day my daughter Elizabeth became an officer for Greenwood.”
Laut says the people are what he loves most about Greenwood.
“When you’re a police officer you see people at their best and at their worst, but I have seen far more instances of good over 31 years than bad,” he says.