Ballard, Straub vow IMPD reform

Public Safety Director Frank Straub, left, with Mayor Greg Ballard

Indianapolis - In a news conference Friday, city leaders expressed disappointment with a decision to allow a Metro Police officer to keep his job following an investigation into excessive force.

The merit board voted 6-1 in favor of allowing Officer Jerry Piland to keep his job, going against the recommendation of the police chief. The decision prompted criticism from several members of the community.

Mayor Greg Ballard also vowed to reform the Indianapolis Metro Police Department, and spoke about initiatives already in place.

"As I made clear in my statement this morning, I am disappointed by the police merit board's vote against [IMPD] Chief [Paul] Ciesielski's recommendation," the mayor said.

"The merit board exists in part so that the police department can be held accountable for their actions. While I do not agree with this decision in this case, we must respect the judgment of the board. The judgment in this particular matter, moreover, does not change our stance on the excessive use of force," he added.

"When I say that public safety is job one, I'm talking about so much more than what happens on the street. I'm referring to things like training, recruitment, our relationships with our neighborhoods. What this incident indicates, however, is that we must make substantial improvement in all of these areas."

"Public confidence in our police force is essential to make Indianapolis a safer, smarter and more prosperous city. I know this, our officers know this and our community knows this. We must reform IMPD to make it an effective and a more diverse police force. We have already begun that process," Ballard said.

Chief Ciesielski reiterated his opposition to the ruling.

"Last night the merit board made a decicsion. I respectfully disagree with that decision," said the chief.

He also said he planned to implement reform within the department.

"I work hard every day and many men and women do every day to bring positive change to this police department. I will change this police department," he said.

"There is a divide in our perception of this incident. We must work to bridge that divide and come to a more common understanding," Ballard said.

Public Safety Director Frank Straub said he fully supported Chief Ciesielski's decision.

"This recommendation was based on extensive, objective and transparent professional standards investigation," he said.

Straub said the investigation "clearly established that the officer used excessive force during the arrest of Brandon Johnson. Force is unfortunately necessary in some arrests. However, excessive force will not and be tolerated."

"We serve the public. It is not about us. Our role is to protect the public regardless of race, ethnicity and/or religion. We must do that with dignity, professionalism, integrity and respect," Straub said.

Straub vowed to implement reforms announced by the mayor on Labor Day, including changes in recruiting, hiring and promoting. He also said there would be changes in the force's disciplinary and professional standards, as well as in training and leadership.