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Cities, towns issue warning about Marion County Sheriff's Office putting 'public safety at risk'

The police chiefs said fewer officers will be on the streets and response times will increase.

MARION COUNTY, INDIANA, Ind. — The chiefs of police for Cumberland, Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport and Speedway issued a warning on Tuesday about "an erosion of their public safety."

The chiefs are concerned about a late-year decision from the Marion County Sheriff's Office to no longer provide transport of arrestees to the jail or hospital, when needed. The police departments said IMPD is also not taking on the responsibility of transporting arrestees from their cities and towns.

As a result, the police chiefs said fewer officers will be on the streets and response times will increase. They said that is because it will take hours for an officer to transport an arrestee and return to their beat. 

"What's most concerning to me and to the police chiefs I have talked to is that, it doesn't really matter how much money you want to throw at overtime. We don't have the manpower. We simply don't have the manpower to be able to cover if an officer's involved in an arrest and forced to do a transport that takes them off the street for a minimum of two hours and possibly much longer," said Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier. 

Additionally, the chiefs complain they don't have the vehicles to transport arrestees, that those vehicles are expensive and take some time to get, and that hiring and training personnel to transport arrestees is expensive and takes time.

The chiefs also said they were notified of the change by the MCSO after municipal budgets were submitted to the state.

Transport of arrestees from Cumberland, Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport and Speedway had been in place since the forming of IMPD more than a decade ago. The chiefs argue that people living in their cities and towns pay taxes to Marion County and that this is a "sharp reduction in services and an erosion of their public safety, at a time when records are being shattered in the realm of violent crime and criminal homicide in Marion County."

The cities and towns are demanding prisoner transportation be restored.

Numbers they submitted to 13News shows a yearly average of 1,024 transports of arrestees needed, which is about three per day.

13News reached out to the Marion County Sheriff's Office and received the following response: 

The Marion County Sheriff's Office has long reported critical staffing difficulties and the fact that no other Sheriff's Office in the state is saddled with the costs of arrestee healthcare and transportation – costs the Sheriff has no ability to control. The MCSO's transition to the Community Justice Campus (CJC) will double the number of inmates for which we provide direct oversight. The most recent Controller-directed budgetary process simply did not fund enough MCSO staff to handle this significant increase and perform arrestee services. According to Colonel James Martin, the Controller's financial priority was for the MCSO to eliminate arrestee services and focus on staffing and security for the Adult Detention Center, CJC, and City-County Building.

Over the summer, the MCSO announced it was looking to fill 100 positions. It was hiring for the following roles:

  • Deputy: $46,000 starting with annual raises reaching $54,000 in the seventh year.
  • Detention Deputy: $39,500 with annual raises reaching $43,800 in the third year
  • 911 Dispatcher: $35,700 with annual raises reaching $40,200.

The sheriff's office was hoping to fill some of the open positions before moving to Marion County's new Community Justice Campus.

Then in November, the Marion County Sheriff's Office announced it was suing the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board over deputies not being admitted into the state's training academy.

Sheriff Kerry Forestal claims his department has worked to get his deputies admitted to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy but has exhausted all options without success.

The department said that before the merger with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the sheriff's office in 2007, the training academy accepted 30 to 40 deputies each year. Since that time, none have been accepted.

Forestal said he requested 20 deputies per year to be admitted or, if that wasn't possible, for the training board to sanction the MCSO academy as a certified academy.

The Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board released the following statement to 13News at the time:

The Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board is aware of the intent by Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal to file a lawsuit against this Board but has not yet received any formal court documents. At this time, it would be inappropriate to discuss these matters publicly until and after the legal process has been exhausted, and a decision has been rendered by the court. This Board would never make any decisions which would have a detrimental impact on public safety.

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