March 9, 2016

Hogsett Wants to Dissolve Public Safety Department

Indianapolis police chief Troy Riggs with Mayor Joe Hogsett at a January public safety summit. - Ryan Delaney/WFYI

Indianapolis police chief Troy Riggs with Mayor Joe Hogsett at a January public safety summit.

Ryan Delaney/WFYI

Corrected: March 10.

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Mayor Joe Hogsett appointed his chiefs of police and fire a few weeks before taking office on Jan. 1, he said he wanted the chiefs to report directly to him, not a public safety director.

"As a practical matter, the mayor of the city is the public safety director. I mean maybe not in title, but certainly in deed," Hogsett said Dec. 8. "I’m in charge of the public safety."

Now, he could actually become public safety director in title. Mayor Hogsett’s administration is working on a major restructuring of public safety services in Indianapolis. Hogsett wants to completely dissolve the Department of Public Safety, a huge government branch overseeing eight agencies, everything from animal control to homeland security. Public safety accounts for about 85 percent of the city budget.

The mayor’s proposal will make police and fire standalone departments, allowing their chiefs to report directly to him. That's been the case in practicum since Hogsett took office, using an executive order. David Wantz, the man former mayor Greg Ballard installed as interim public safety director in August, has stayed on in that role.

Four of the six other agencies under public safety would fall under a new Office of Public Health and Safety within the mayor’s office. (Animal control will fold into code enforcement while homeland security will become a division of IMPD.) A director would be named to oversee that office, the administration said. The mayor would hold the official title of public safety director.

The moves are about taking an "over the horizon," diagnostic approach to public safety, corporation counsel Andy Mallon told city councilors this week.

"We really feel that the restructuring facilitates a public health approach to crime prevention and public safety in general," he said.

Mallon said these moves will eliminate bureaucracy, not create it.

The overhaul requires a change in municipal code needing approval by the city-county council. It’s before committee now and could be voted on at their April meeting.

Contact Ryan: 317.489.4491 | | @rpatrickdelaney 

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