Councilor questions increased officers plan

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Jesse Parnell moved into his east side neighborhood nearly 51 years ago. He says he was the fourth person to settle there. Since then, he's seen a lot of changes and many not for the better.

"We didn't lock our doors, our kids played in the street until bedtime and no, you can't do that now," Parnell said.

Parnell lives in area with one of the city's highest crime rates. He thinks having a greater police presence would help.

"I think we all need to come together," he said. "And I agree we need more policemen."

The mayor's plan puts 216 more officers on the street over the next few years. It does so by reassigning officers and holding two recruit classes (in 2014 and 2015) to replace retiring officers.

Democratic Councilor John Barth says that plan doesn't go far enough.

"It really reshuffles the deck and doesn't add any police to IMPD ranks," Barth says.

Barth points to a Department of Public Safety report written by a special efficiency team. It shows IMPD 685 officers shy of the average for a city its size.

"Now is the opportunity to add new officers," Barth says. "The fact is we have money available in the Rebuild Indy fund."

The Rebuild Indy Fund includes money from the sale of the city's water utility. Mayor Greg Ballard set it up to pay for infrastructure improvements, such as new roads and sidewalks.

Last month the council voted 15-10 (with three Republicans joining Democrats) to use $6 million from that fund to hire 60 police recruits. It's a plan the mayor vetoed and still strongly opposes.

Monday morning, Ballard said, "it's not going to be there forever, only a few more years...You don't use one-time money for one-time expenses. That's how cities go broke."

Barth said it was a matter of setting priorities and Monday night the council would vote on whether to override that veto.

"People in the city have made it clear to me that they want to see public safety a priority, so why not take some money to get more officers on the street?" he said.

Asked if Indianapolis had enough officers, Ballard replied, "We have the officers we can afford - 92 percent of our budget goes to public safety or criminal justice."

The council needed 20 votes to override the mayor's veto, but only got 16 in Monday's vote.

"The people of Indianapolis rely on the Council to make decisions based on their priorities and there is no priority greater than public safety. We cannot delay taking action to add resources to IMPD and I am committed to continuing the fight for more IMPD officers," City-County Council President Maggie Lewis wrote in a statement after the vote.

"All eyes go to the budget process for next year. That will be a major discussion as to how will we allocate more money for IMPD officers," Barth said Monday afternoon, before the vote.