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Council considers eliminating Indianapolis Department of Public Safety

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Joe Hogsett

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Mar. 8, 2016)– In an effort to streamline his administration and take direct responsibility for the security of the city, Mayor Joe Hogsett is calling for the elimination of the Department of Public Safety and the position of Public Safety Director.

The proposal, detailed before the Administration and Finance Committee of the City County Council, would save $300,000 to $600,000, according to Dr. David Wantz, the current director.

“This sends a message that we are no longer fighting crime with guns,” said Councilman Joe Simpson, a democrat. “We are dealing with our issues.”

“We want to turn the city into a working lab,” disagreed Jack Sandlin, a republican and retired IPD commander, “and I’m not sure this is a good thing for our community.”

Andrew Mallon of the Office of Corporation Counsel explained that replacing DPS with the Office of Public Health and Safety, to be headed by a director appointed by the mayor and operated with two staff members, would put the onus of public safety squarely on the 25th floor of the City County Building.

Hogsett would appoint the police chief and fire chief directly, as he has ever since the signing of an executive order during his first day in office on January 1st.

The mayor would, in effect, become the de facto Public Safety Director while his appointed Public Health and Safety director would become a chief advisor and administrator charged with being a liaison to other agencies.

The new alignment is designed to eliminate bureaucracy and diffuse services and responsibility while focusing the city’s fight against crime and for public safety on the holistic approach favored by IMPD Chief and former Public Safety Director Troy Riggs to tailor a security approach that considers the full range of dynamics that impact violence and despair, including food, poverty and mental illness challenges.

“Public health uses a systematic scientific approach for understanding and preventing violence,” determined the Centers for Disease Control.

One current DPS division, Animal Care and Control, would be transferred to Code Enforcement under the perception that animal and pet issues lend themselves more to housing and not policing solutions.

The Citizens Complaint Review Board would be under the authority of the mayor while the Department of Homeland Security would find a home under IMPD but assigned to DPHS.

While the current DPS roster has some two dozen employees, many of them are detailed to that department from IMPD and therefore realignment would not necessarily mean wholesale manpower reductions.

One reason to link public health and public safety is the real threat of pandemics, either natural or terrorist-related, in the future.

Council President Maggie Lewis said Proposal No. 112 would receive another airing Wednesday afternoon before the council’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee and two more hearings by month’s end, the final on March 29th in a location outside the CCB.

Lewis also said that adopting an approach that identifies the fight on crime as a public health issue puts Indianapolis in line to apply for federal grants to fund its programs.

“The only thing we’re doing is eliminating the bureaucracy of public safety, not services,” said Mallon who assured councilors it is within the mayor’s authority, under state statute, to eliminate the department and the post with council approval.