IMPD rank and file, Straub at odds over changes

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Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates

Indianapolis - A contract dispute is driving a wedge between the Indianapolis Metro Police Department and the man who oversees it.

In a 13 Investigates report, the new public safety director defends a decision to disband several specialized investigative units and the rank and file deliver a vote of protest.

Standing together, IMPD's rank and file hoped to send a loud message to the city wrapped in silence at FOP headquarters Thursday.

"I'm not pleased with the contract and some of the verbage in it, so therefore I rejected it," said Retired IMPD Lt. Bill Myers, who was one of the few to speak.

But behind the badge, officers on the job are fuming over a plan revealed Monday to disband some specialized investigative units like robbery, burglary and auto theft and assigning those 65 or so detectives to district beats.

Depending on the need, those investigators could be ordered back to the street. Officers tell 13 Investigates it's a contract violation.

"It doesn't violate anything," countered Public Safety Director Frank Straub. On the job since January, he says the plan would give district commanders the additional resources they have been asking for while streamlining services for residents.

It comes at a time when a traumatized city aches from deadly violence.

"Do you need a stalemate with the FOP and the rank and file?" 13 Investigates asked Straub.

"I'm not causing the stalemate," he replied. "This is something one or two people have taken and are now spinning out of control, in all honesty," said the director.

Straub won't name names. But it's clear his fight is at the top at the FOP.

President Bill Owensby and his board refused to talk about their contract position, or what Straub calls false allegations.

"This is somebody who has decided to say that the mayor and I were going to take cars away from the police officers or further restrict them is categorically untrue," said Straub, trying to clear up some of the misinformation he says is spreading to officers.

The public safety director is accusing the FOP of rushing this contract to a vote for one simple reason: To protest.

"It's going to be sad if it doesn't get passed," Straub told 13 Investigates. "I'm sorry and I'm chagrined that instead of saying, 'Let's vote the contract down to prove our point about the detectives,' that the FOP didn't reach out and say, 'Let's engage,'" he added.

"It's a stalemate perhaps," said Lt. Myers in light of the backlash.

Now with bad blood flowing internally, and on the streets, Straub says the city must be proactive.

"What they're doing now is trying to use the contract as way to hold change hostage. Change is going to happen," Straub promised.

The contract vote closed at 6:00 pm Thursday. Owensby revealed the results of the contract vote as 126 accepting and 748 rejecting. 

Officers tell 13 Investigates they were also unhappy with wages, and insurance.

Straub says top brass at IMPD is still working with the investigative supervisors to decide which units to disband. He also says despite a September 4th target date to make the moves, nothing is set in stone.