INDIANAPOLIS — NOTE: The above video is of a previous report on local police chiefs warning the Marion County Sheriff's Office was putting "public safety at risk."
Marion County law enforcement leaders have reached an agreement addressing a change in prisoner transport that a handful of local police chiefs feared would put public safety at risk.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office said due to lack of funding and manpower, it was planning to no longer provide transport of arrestees to the jail or hospital when needed, instead putting that responsibility back on local police departments in Cumberland, Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport and Speedway.
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Last week, the chiefs of police for these departments issued a warning that the MCSO's decision would put public safety at risk because, like the MCSO, these local police departments are also short-staffed.
The police chiefs said if they were to provide prisoner transport, fewer officers would be on the streets and response times would increase because it would take hours for an officer to transport an arrestee and return to their beat.
On Monday, the MCSO announced it reached an agreement with the police chiefs.
The MCSO will continue transporting anyone who an on-duty officer has arrested for a violent crime. It will also secure anyone who has been arrested for a violent crime and subsequently admitted to Eskenazi Hospital.
Through this agreement, the Marion County Public Safety Coalition was also formed. It's comprised of the MCSO, the previously mentioned local police departments, and an invitation for IMPD to join is pending. The organization will hold quarterly meetings to discuss ways to curb violent crime in Marion County.
“It is well past the time to set aside any disagreements and focus on the higher purpose we all serve; protecting the people of our county, no matter where they live,” said Sheriff Kerry Forestal. “I’m grateful to the elected leaders and police chiefs of these communities for collaboratively charting a path forward that both acknowledges our respective challenges and prioritizes the lives and livelihoods of our citizens.”
The group not only reached an agreement, but also listed a series of demands.
The MCSO said the city controller, who is appointed by the mayor and oversees the office of finance and management, is to blame for the budget cuts that resulted in the MCSO's initial changes to prisoner transport.
The group is calling on the controller to "take additional urgent action to more permanently fund, and thereby staff, arrestee services in Marion County."
They're also demanding the controller do the following:
- Immediately permit Eskenazi Hospital police to apply for the overtime dollars guaranteed by him to excluded city and town officers, thereby allowing them to staff their own detention unit.
- Investigate contracting security services for the Eskenazi detention unit, recognizing security staff may not be needed 24/7/365.
- Investigate long-term solutions to properly fund in-house arrestee transportation services for the excluded cities and towns.
In addition, the group wants Eskenazi Hospital to hire more non-law enforcement security officers to receive arrestees who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
"These people are in a hospital setting, often against their will, and need professional healthcare," the MCSO said. "They are not best served by police officers arresting them at the hospital for criminal offenses stemming from a medical issue."
The group will meet again in six months to review their agreement, as well as its effectiveness and affordability.