Ballard announces plan to add IMPD officers

Mayor Ballard
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There have already been more than 70 murders in this city so far this year, and on Monday, Mayor Greg Ballard announced plans to put 116 uniformed officers back on the streets.

The mayor was joined by Public Safety Director Troy Riggs and Chief of Police Rick Hite to make the announcement, which includes plans for an additional 40 officers to patrol duty by the end of next year, and holds two recruit classes containing at least 100 officers by 2016.

The plan is based on recommendations from an internal report. The City-County Council attempted to introduce a plan to put more officers on the street, but the mayor vetoed that plan, saying that the funding was not sustainable over the long term.

But as city leaders reveal their plan to put more officers on the street, concerned religious leaders say it may not be enough.

"Summertime and springtime, this is a hot spot everywhere," said Susan, a homeowner in the 46208 zip code, an area police call a "hot spot" for violent crime.

Susan is just a stone's throw from Saturday's double homicide at 29th and Capitol Avenue, where family and friends set up a memorial to the victims. She didn't want to show her face on camera, but asks for more police presence in the neighborhood.

"We felt that the presence of police would alert other people to say this area we need to stay away from," Susan said.

Religious leaders like Rev. Charles Ellis argue the reaction to the issues in the community should be more immediate.

"We have to do something. If this was a disease that was killing people, we would do something. We would not stop until we found a way to stop it. We have to take great action, we have to take direct action, dramatic action right now," Ellis said.

The religious leaders are also fighting to get the city to free up millions of crime prevention dollars tied up at City Hall.

"We cannot wait until September. We need the money on the streets now to prevent more bloodshed in our community," said Rev. Charles Harrison.

About the plan

The Police Personnel Allocation Efficiency Team identified 91 Neighborhood Resource Officers, five Field Training Coordinator Supervisors and Sergeants, four Community Affairs Branch officers, one officer from the Training Division, and 16 officers currently assigned to a variety of special assignments to be returned to patrol functions. The efficiency team also recommended certain positions that civilians could fill, allowing sworn officers in those positions to return to patrol functions. IMPD plans to hire 10 civilians by the end of 2013, and another 35 civilians in 2014—returning at least 40 additional officers to patrol functions.

In addition to returning 156 officers to patrol functions over the next 18 months, the Department of Public Safety will budget for a recruit class of at least 50 officers to start in late 2014 and another recruit class of at least 50 officers in 2016 to maintain the staffing as officers retire and leave the force each year.

"We needed to look at every position within the police department," Riggs said.

"We need to start recruiting, right now, men and women who are dedicated to the spirit of service and adventure, who are concerned about issues in our community," said Hite.

Some of the districts, especially in the high crime areas, are working officers non-stop just to keep up with 911 calls. The reassignments will not only help ease the workload, but Hite says it will hopefully send a message to the bad guys.

"We are starting recruiting today, thanks to the mayor and director effective today. The calvary is on the way, we have to circle the wagons, because the bad guys need to know we are not playing with this," Hite said.

Not enough?

Most in public safety will tell you Ballard's plan is not enough. But it may be the fastest way to get officers back on the streets. The problem is that these are neighborhood resource officers - the very officers who build personal relationships in the community. Their goal is to prevent crime, but now these officers will now be shifted to fighting it.

There is no good solution. Democrats hold the majority in the City-County Council, and wanted to spend $6 million to train new officers. The mayor vetoed that decision because it would take at least two years for new officers to be recruited and be ready to serve. His plan of shifting officers is a way to get experienced police out fighting crime immediately.

"The original purpose for this is to get some help to the backbone of this police department," said Public Safety Director Troy Riggs. "Those officers, and patrol. It's an important function. It's the most visible function that we have. So help is on the way and a sustainable plan."

"Having officers that are engaged in their community, that are working as problem solvers," Riggs added, "and making runs in those same areas, where they really get to know the people that they're serving - I think that's good for all of us."

But if you ask the police officers' union, the Fraternal Order of Police, it's just a drop in the bucket. They insist IMPD is 685 officers short.

FOP President Bill Owensby told Eyewitness News, "To say we are short is a huge understatement. It is simply time for action and not politics or verbiage."

To add to the problem, 100 officers are expected to retire this year, further reducing IMPD ranks not just in terms of numbers, but of some of the most experienced officers on the force.