‘A cop’s cop’: Indiana State Sen. Jack Sandlin dies

The Indiana state senator who represented areas of Greenwood and the southside of Indianapolis has died.

State Sen. Jack Sandlin, a Republican who has served in the Indiana Senate since first being elected in 2016, passed away on Wednesday. He represented District 36, which covers areas of northwestern Pleasant and northeastern White River Township in Johnson County and a majority of Perry Township in Marion County.

Sandlin’s death was first reported Wednesday evening by IndyPolitics.org, and later confirmed by a spokesperson for his office in an email to the Daily Journal.

“It is our understanding Sen. Sandlin has passed away, and out of respect for the family, we have nothing further to share right now,” press secretary Abby Webb said Wednesday evening.

Sandlin is survived by his wife Lydia, a daughter and three grandchildren.

In the Indiana Senate, Sandlin served on the standing committees for Corrections and Criminal Law; Environmental Affairs; and Insurance and Financial Institutions. He was in his sixth year in the Indiana Senate, last elected in 2020.

Career of public service

Before serving in the Senate, Sandlin was a member of the Indianapolis City-County Council from November 2010 to 2016. He also served as Perry Township Trustee from November 1997 to December 2006.

Sandlin was a graduate of Greenwood Community High School and University of Indianapolis, and earned a master’s in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, according to his official biography on his Senate web page.

He worked for Indianapolis police from 1973 to 1993, and later worked for the Southport police from 1995 to 2009. He also served in the U.S. Army as a military police officer, and was trained as a fire and arson investigator in the U.S. Fire Academy.

Sandlin was both a certified fraud examiner and a certified fraud specialist. He was the president of his own investigations firm, Jack Sandlin & Associates Fraud Examination.

In his personal life, Sandlin was a volunteer for Central Indiana Youth for Christ. He served on the board of directors for Perry Township Senior Citizen Services and the Perry Township Historical Society, where he was also a member.

Additionally, he was a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, American Society of Industrial Security, American Legion Post 56, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1120, Greater Southside Business Alliance and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86.

Sandlin was the recipient of the governor’s Distinguished Hoosier Award in 1993. In 1998, he received the Certified Fraud Examiners Distinguished Achievement Award. In 2008, the Greater Southside Business Alliance gave him the Morris W. Hancock Community Service Award, according to his bio.

Tributes pour in

As news of Sandlin’s death spread Wednesday, officials from all levels of government across the state expressed their condolences and reflected on their relationships with him.

Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, said Sandlin was a strong advocate for the people of Central Indiana and a champion of Indianapolis.

“He was a valued member of our caucus, and we will feel his loss deeply,” Bray said in a written statement.

Johnson County GOP chair Beth Boyce said in a statement that Sandlin “exemplified what it means to be a public servant.” He dedicated his life to saving others, she said.

“Jack was a great friend to Johnson County and his leadership and friendship will be missed,” Boyce said. “Our sympathy goes out to his wife Lydia and his family, friends and loved ones.”

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers, who was a personal friend of Sandlin, described him as a man who was “larger-than-life.” He first met Sandlin when they both worked at the Southport Police Department.

“He was always tough, as anyone who knew Jack could attest, but Jack was always fair, always willing to give the shirt off his back to anyone, and always the definition of a public servant,” Myers said in a Facebook post. “My prayers are with his wonderful wife, Lydia, their daughter, Carrie, and his three grandchildren. He loved them more than anything. I will miss my friend.”

Johnson County Sheriff Duane Burgess also met Sandlin while working for Southport police 25-or-so years ago and remained friends over the years. He said Sandlin was a good person and was driven person who knew how to get things done.

“If you needed something done in the Senate, he would get it done. He helped law enforcement a lot,” Burgess said.

Sandlin would talk to police to see how he could help them and would research how he could help when police told him about an issue. Over the years, Sandlin carried numerous bills for law enforcement over the years, Burgess said.

“He was a cop’s cop. He was a guy who gave 110%,” Burgess said.

Sandlin was also a special deputy for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. He volunteered to help with charity rides and out-of-state prisoner transports, Burgess said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state lost “a true public servant,” and that Sandlin was “a gentleman who devoted his life to serving others.” Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said it was an honor to serve alongside him the last seven years as president of the Indiana Senate.

“His clear voice and integrity will be missed,” Holcomb said in a written statement.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush called Sandlin a “valuable partner” to the justice system. He used his “wealth of experience” to connect legislative, executive and judicial stakeholders in efforts to develop solutions to mental health and justice needs, Rush said in a statement.

“He devoted significant time to join our judicial branch leaders at training and outreach events dedicated to behavioral health and justice,” she said. “His passing is a tremendous loss to our state, but we are grateful for the years we had to partner with Senator Sandlin.”

Jefferson Shreve, the Republican candidate for Indianapolis mayor, said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Sandlin’s death. Shreve, a former member of the Indianapolis City-County Council, had served at the same time as Sandlin, and had run against him for the District 36 seat in the 2016 Republican primary.

“He was a kind man, a great competitor and he served our state well,” Shreve said in a written statement.

Caucus needed

As Sandlin was currently in the Senate, a replacement will need to be named to serve out the remainder of his term, which expires next year.

A caucus of Republican precinct committee members in Senate District 36 will be charged with choosing their next senator. The caucus will be set by the Indiana GOP chair.

Under Indiana law, the caucus must take no later 30 days after the vacancy occurs. However, this 30-day clock does not start until the Indiana GOP chair receives official notice of the vacancy from the Senate president pro tem — which has not yet occurred, said Joe Elsener, chair of the Marion County Republican Party.

Right now, the state GOP is focused on Sandlin and his family. The caucus will take place in the near future, Elsener said.

Daily Journal editor Leeann Doerflein contributed to this report.