INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 5, 2015)-- With six murders in the first five days of November, Indianapolis’ 2015 killing rate is keeping track with last year’s recent record pace.
At least 124 people have been murdered in the city thus far this year, putting an added strain on an undermanned IMPD homicide branch tasked with solving the metro area’s sometimes toughest cases as their victims can never speak for themselves.
“We have a force of 1,500 doing the work of 3,000,” said IMPD Chief Rick Hite, “And I think the motivation is not only just the work but the people.”
Hite’s comments came after he hosted an awards ceremony that honored more than 300 IMPD officers and reserves and civilians for courage and professionalism in protecting the city in ways that rarely make headlines.
The honors were handed out a day after Mayor-elect Joe Hogsett vowed to seek the advice of Hite and others in fashioning his response to public safety upon taking office January 1.
“I’m glad to hear the new mayor talking about hiring 150 additional officers,” said Hite. “We’re fast tracking in terms of hiring our new recruit class, in terms of law enforcement experience need to apply.”
Detectives Marcus Kennedy and Bob Flack received the IMPD Medal of Merit for solving the murder of Dominque Allen in 2014.
The 15-year-old girl was found raped and set ablaze in the yard of an abandoned westside house in August of last year.
Over the course of the next four months, Kennedy and Flack worked 16-hour days, six days a week, until a DNA match led them to William Gholston who is now charged in the killing.
“A lot of people are under the assumption that just because we make an arrest, that’s where we stop working,” said Kennedy, a 25-year Homicide veteran. “ I’m still working on Dominique Allen’s case, and that’s been over a year ago, but not only that, you’re getting cases in the meantime, and you make an arrest, but you’re still working on those, and new ones keep coming in and, as you know, the homicide rate’s going up, and so they come quick.”
“Cases are becoming more frequent in our rotation,” said Flack, a decorated veteran. “It's just something we have to deal with on a daily basis and do the best we can on each individual investigation.
“You just gotta keep forging ahead, trying to connect the dots, and every case is different in its own aspect.”
The solve rate of the IMPD Homicide Branch has dipped to 60% for a variety of reasons.
While social media and cell phone tracking have provided detectives with more evidence and investigative avenues than in the past, the nature of murder in Indianapolis has changed.
Witnesses are more reluctant to cooperate and some killers are arriving in Indianapolis from out of town.
“Well, the age has gotten younger,” said Kennedy of the suspects he chases down. “It seems they’re a lot bolder, they don’t care whether police officers are around or not, they seem to have a problem with conflict resolution these days, seems to be a lot more vicious now.”
“The violence seems to be more escalated,” Flack agreed. “Just a total disregard for peoples’ lives and property more or less.”
The manpower strength of the homicide branch was diminished by a full quarter, down to 18 detectives to cover the city 24/7, following the retirements of several veteran investigators.
Slowly, the branch is crawling back up to full strength.
“It normally takes a new detective about three years up there to really get it. You’ve got to solve cases and go do trials and learn how it goes in the courtroom and deal with the prosecutors, that’s how you learn,” said Kennedy.
Alongside Flack and Kennedy were officers honored for often saving lives, at other times for taking lives, while a national debate rages as to whether policemen and women across America are more reluctant to wage forth into battle and put their own lives on the line due to recent controversial police action shootings.
“It really comes from the heart of people who really get it,” said Hite. “Who understand the oath, who understand that what happens nationally does not impact Indianapolis. They go out there making sure everyone’s safe.”