NewsPublic AffairsGovernment / July 8, 2014

Public Safety Calls For More Resources, Support

Sam Klemet
Public Safety Calls For More Resources, Support

Indianapolis Public Safety officials are calling for more resources as they face increasing violence.

Members of the Department of Public Safety, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and Fraternal Order of Police spoke out, Tuesday, requesting more man power to address a situation they described as “a crossroads“ for the city.

Over the past 18 months, eight Indianapolis police officers have been shot, another 22 were shot at, and two were killed including Officer Perry Renn, Saturday night.

"Frankly, our community should be mad as hell," said Fraternal Order of Police First Vice President Rick Snyder.  "It's not going to be until our community says enough is enough that we will start to make a change for the better."

There were 21 assaults on police in the first four months of this year, only one fewer than all of last year.

Snyder says those statistics and the killing of officer Renn have police crying out for more resources.

"You look at somebody like Officer Renn who spent 22 years in a very violent part of this city.  He had plenty of opportunities to go and do something else in this police department and he chose to stay there and fight the fight.  It's officers like him that are saying they need help," said Snyder.  "We hope and we pray that our citizens will listen to those who are on the front lines.  This is going to get worse and we have to figure out what we are going to do about it."

Fraternal Order of Police President Bill Owensby says he has not seen this level of attacks on police officers in his 32-year career.

"These numbers, they are scary, very scary," said Owensby.  "Our men and women, yet, every single day put their uniforms on and go out there and run towards danger and they don't know if they are going to come home that night or that day."

DPS Director Troy Riggs says one piece of the safety puzzle is keeping violent criminals off the streets.

He wants stricter minimum mandatory sentences that require 20 years behind bars for a violent crime.

"We have too many people getting out of prison too soon," said Riggs.  "We have given examples of individuals that have been sentenced to 16 years in prison for violent felony crimes only to be released to the streets of Indianapolis after 783 days and being involved in a home invasion on the east side."

"Officers did their job.  I think they were let down."

Snyder says another solution is hiring more officers.

Right now, 60 recruits are training to be part of IMPD, but most are still about a year away from being on the streets.

Before that happens, another 40 to 50 are expected to leave the department mostly from retirement.  Snyder says by not keeping up with attrition, the city is leaving itself open to crime.

"Evil does follow the path of least resistance.  Criminals follow the path of least resistance," he said.  "It is no secret that Indianapolis is in a weakened, compromised position right now when it comes to public safety.  That is why we are seeing criminals from all over the country, other states, other cities, coming here to do their business."

Earlier this year, a bipartisan City County Council Commission recommended hiring 232 new officers over the next four years which would cost about $28 million.

The money would come from a .50-percent increase in the Public Safety Tax or about $65 a year for someone with an annual income of $50,000.

And eliminating the local homestead tax credit would free up nine million dollars.

Supporters of the idea say it’s outdated because of property tax caps already in place.

But, some councilors such as Democrat Bill Oliver says they want the city to look elsewhere for the money.

"There are other options.  There are other things out there.  They named a couple of them, the local option income tax, the police tax, public safety tax, raising some of the user fees downtown and anywhere else IMPD is being used," he said.  "There are several other things out there that can be used besides the local homestead credit."

Snyder says finding a compromise will achieve the funding needed for the city’s police staffing needs and he says there is public support to pay for more officers.

"When we go into the community, folks tell us they are willing to pay it, they have just never been asked," said Snyder.  "I think we have done a good job of saying 'we're spending your money that we have now as efficiently as possible.  We are coming to you in good faith saying we need this.'  Then it will be time for them to choose. But somebody needs to act and somebody needs to lead."

Until then, Snyder says officers will continue to fight a growing problem of violence with fewer resources.