Plan to add 400 officers comes with a price
The IMPD Staffing Study Commission approved a plan to add hundreds more officers to the force by 2018.
Its plan calls for hiring 400 officers over the next four years (with natural attrition, that's a net gain of 270 officers) at a cost of $28.5 million a year.
"For three consecutive years I have asked the City-County Council to provide more funding to hire additional IMPD officers, but they have refused. I will give serious thought to any proposal that emerges from the Council process," said Mayor Greg Ballard.
"It would allow IMPD to put those officers out on the streets, more detectives, officers and vice, wherever they're needed. They could then have the numbers that they need to adequately staff their department," saidCouncilorr Mary Moriarity Adams.
The commission recommends three ways to pay for adding more officers. One is applying for and using federal COPS grants the next three years, phasing out the COIT homestead credit and raising the public safety income tax to its maximum rate of one-half of one percent.
Democratic Councilor John Barth said those last two measures would cost someone making $50,000 a year an extra $2 a week in taxes.
While tax increases are never popular, the plan comes at time when many people are worried about crime, particularly the number of homicides, which have reached more than 50 this year.
Paula Metzler, who lives just south of downtown, said, "It's a losing battle with the crime continually rising."
Metzler said she would love to see more officers in neighborhoods across the city and she doesn't mind paying her share as long as everyone else pays theirs.
"I don't think everybody would feel the hard pinch as just trying to pull it from one source," she said.
Mark Booth, who lives in Irvington, said "that's my big concern, how are you going to fund it?"
While he doesn't mind paying a couple bucks a week more in taxes, he wonders if it's really enough.
"You get 100 officers, you get 100 cruisers and then gas for 100 cruisers, it's going to be adding expense to everybody, I think," Booth said.
Chris Manolis, who lives in the Herron-Morton neighborhood, values his safety. Manolis and many of his neighbors are paying $150 a year for off-duty police officers to patrol the streets in his area.
"Make it known to the would-be criminals that they would have a bad encounter if they were too active," Manolis said.
He says the small tax increase is worth it.
"That is the main thing, having the feeling that you're more secure," he said.
Asked why how the commission came to its conclusions, Barth said, "the current recommendations are built around actions the council can take now, but others could come down the road."
He said one includes getting tax-exempt institutions like hospitals to voluntary contribute or charging large special events fees for police services.
"People who work in Indy and live outside the area, are they going to have to pay their share or is it all on Indianapolis residents?" Booth wondered.
Barth said a so-called commuter tax is another option, but it would need legislative approval.
As for what's next?
"The mayor needs to review it, other councilors need to review it and residents need to make a determination if they want more police to protect neighborhoods and if so, is this the right way to fund it?" Barth said.
He said if the plan gets enough support, it could become part of the budget process for next year now getting underway with the first 100 officers hired in 2015.
When asked about the plan, Mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter said, "We've been trying to get (police) funding for three years. If (the council) passes it, we'll take a look at it. It's all up to them."
Republican Councilor Christine Scale said she would prefer the city pursue a short-term loan versus a tax increase, while looking for more long-term revenue sources.