The Fraternal Order of Police weighed in Tuesday on the Department of Public Safety's budget crisis.
At a news conference Tuesday, the police officers' union offered ten steps to the Indianapolis Metro Police Department. The suggestions include having the sheriff's department patrol parks, the Monon Trail, the Canal and Waterways; transfer all public safety communications from the sheriff's department to the police department and charge a public safety user fee for sporting events and conventions.
"As we saw during the Super Bowl, many citizens were not aware that at these events officers were pulled from the neighborhoods to staff these large events," said Rick Snyder, FOP 1st vice president.
"We think there's been a tremendous amount of mismanagement of funds," said Bill Owensby, FOP president. "We can't buy ammo now. There was a directive put out last week that said anybody wishing to carry an off-duty weapon outside the 40-caliber range has to bring their own ammo."
The FOP says officer morale is low and worsening.
Marion County Sheriff John Layton issued this statement:
"The Sheriff's Office is aware of press reports concerning the police union's press conference held today. Sheriff John Layton has been working with the leadership of the City-County Council and the City to address Public Safety funding concerns. The Sheriff, the Council, and the City have a history of working together through these challenges in a bipartisan fashion. For example, late last year, the Council addressed the Marion County Sheriff's Office 2011 budget deficit.
Sheriff Layton looks forward to continuing to work with all parties, including Public Safety Director Straub, and he is committed to finding positive solutions to the difficult Public Safety funding challenges facing our City and our County."
Eyewitness News reported last month that Indianapolis Metro Police, the Indianapolis Fire Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department are almost out of money.
Embattled DPS head Frank Straub announced at an emergency meeting earlier this month that police and fire budgets are $30 million in the red. The City-County Council's public safety committee has postponed a confidence vote on Straub twice.
The committee says something needs to be done soon or deputies could be pulled from secure hospital units, police district outposts could close, vehicle maintenance could be affected and payroll could be in danger by the end of the year. On the personnel side, as officers leave their departments, there is no money to replacement them.
Marion County Sheriff John Layton says his budget is short about $16 million.
The police union has opposed the idea of making changes to the department's take-home vehicle policy as a way to save money. Owensby has argued take-home cars for IMPD's 1,630 officers aren't a perk, but an essential part of the job. He said they improve police presence. Lose the cars and you lose an important crime deterrent, according to Owensby.
Further complicating the issue is a "windfall" of $41 million owed to Marion County that was mistakenly kept by the state. In early April, the state announced a multi-million-dollar tax error that led to revenue being withheld from counties.
Those payments were distributed to counties earlier this month after the mistake was discovered, but the mayor and council Democrats have been at odds over what to do with the cash. The mayor wants to hold it in reserve and says overspending needs to be reined in. Democrats on the council want to use the money now to remedy the immediate budget deficit.