April 11, 2016

Council Roundup: Public Safety Overhaul, New Flood Maps

INDIANAPOLIS -- Two big early efforts from Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, won approval from the city-county council Monday night. As did a long-pushed for change to Indianapolis police recruiting policies, but not without some pushback and changes.

Here's a summary:

No More Public Safety Department

The council signed off on Hogsett’s restructuring of public safety services in the city. Hogsett’s plan eliminates the Department of Public Safety, the city’s largest government branch, in favor of making fire and police stand-alone departments.

It creates a new office of public health and safety within the mayor’s administration, which will oversee several of the eight divisions of public safety. 

(Read more about the changes here.)

The mayor's administration projects a half-million dollar annual savings through the elimination of adminstrative positions. Republican Councilor Jack Sandlin voiced concern over those estimates.

"I’m concerned about whether or not we’re looking at best practices," he said. "I’m not saying that it can’t be done, I’m just saying there hasn’t been evidence that’s been presented in the proposal that this is going to be effective."

Hogsett says the changes will allow the city to have a more holistic approach to public safety by focusing on the causes of crime. "The passage of these changes rejects the status quo and embraces an over-the-horizon, holistic approach to crime prevention and mental health," he said in a statement.

Police diversity recruiting

One city councilor has finally pushed through an effort to make the city’s police force more diverse.

Democrat Stephen Clay’s bill to codified a so-called “80/20” recruiting policy won approval in the council Monday night. It requires IMPD to hire 20 percent of its recruits based on ethnicity and gender in an attempt to make IMPD’s force more reflective of Indy’s demographics.

"Proposal 83 is comprehensive and it provides greater efficiency and opportunity for IPMD officers," he said.

Councilors did amend the proposal, which had deadlocked and been postponed at the past two meetings. It no longer requires changed to the appointment police merit board members. And councilors traded barbes over racial accusations.

Mayor Hogsett applauded the measure’s diversity recruiting efforts, saying it "will improve ongoing efforts to strengthen our police force by making it more representative of the people it serves."

New Flood Maps

Homeowners living near creeks and rivers in the city now have new flood maps to pay attention to. The city council last night approved the first redrawing of flood maps in three decades.

The new maps remove about 4,200 properties from a federal flood zone, but add 2,900 different ones.

The flood maps are required for Indianapolis to be eligible for federal disaster assistance. It also requires homeowners in a flood zone to pay for often expensive flood insurance.

Read more about the new maps in our previous coverage.

Tougher ethics for the mayor

Mayor Hogsett’s campaign promise of tightening ethics rules for his administration and other top county officials is now about to become law. The city-council passed the bill with large support.

It toughens penalties for rule breakers of the ethics policy. It also requires more transparency in the lobbying of city officials and creates an online portal for campaign finance filings. It does not affect city-councilors though.

Contact Ryan: 317.489.4491 | rdelaney@wfyi.org | @rpatrickdelaney 

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