INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Mayor Joe Hogsett begins 2017, his second full year in office, searching for a new police chief, and he thinks that man or woman already works for IMPD.
Finding a successor to former Metro Police Chief Troy Riggs is Hogsett’s first priority in the New Year.
“That will begin tomorrow in earnest,” said Hogsett after the opening of the Reuben Engagement Center at the Marion County Arrestee Processing Center. “I’ve already had conversations with many from throughout the leadership of not only the community, the sheriff, the prosecutor, I met with the command staff of IMPD last week, and in naming Valerie Cunningham to be the acting chief, I also made it clear that I was going to spend the better part of this week talking to internal candidates, people who are currently on IMPD’s command staff and interviewing them to begin that process. I am going to work expeditiously toward a thoughtful and prudent decision made sooner rather than later.”
Riggs told FOX59 that he was leaving the chief’s post, which pays $118,000, for more lucrative opportunities in other states or in the private or non-profit sectors.
A survey shows comparable cities throughout the Midwest pay their chiefs $175,000 a year or more, and an expensive national search may not necessarily land Indianapolis a better candidate, at the current salary, then some of IMPD’s current top ranking officers who have watched Riggs and previous Chief Rick Hite lead an evolution in data driven community policing.
“I think that the groundwork that was laid by Chief Troy Riggs and the command staff in 2016 was exactly the way that IMPD needs to focus its attention in 2017,” said Hogsett, “and by that I mean not only adding resources to the focus areas and our community based policing approach, but also the holistic approach to crime generally, focusing on the root causes of crime, making the investments, like the Reuben Engagement Center, and an overall overhaul of the criminal justice system generally.”
The Reuben Engagement Center, which may still be weeks away from accepting its first clients, will serve as an alternative to jail for arrestees experiencing mental illness, addiction or homeless issues.
“I’m leaving all options on the table,” said Hogsett. “I think Val Cunningham and many of her colleagues in the command staff represent the kind of continuity and leadership that IMPD, I think, would be well served to have. In other words, an Indianapolis born, Indianapolis bred longtime IMPD leader, and that’s what I’m going to be putting a premium on in my search.”
Cunningham was appointed by Riggs to serve as the Nightshift Deputy Chief and has expressed no interest in permanent assignment to the Chief’s position.
Democrat City County Councilman Leroy Robinson, who chairs the Public Safety Committee which will confirm Hogsett’s choice as chief, listed his own crime fighting priorities for the coming year.
“Going forward, number one, to reduce our murder rate, obviously, and just reduce crime overall. Most importantly provide services to our citizens in need to reduce those numbers.”
Monday afternoon, IMPD issued its final preliminary homicide and murder numbers from 2016, subject to change upon further investigation.
Detectives examined 171 homicides and, with the coroner’s findings, determined 149 were murders, a new record slightly above last year’s total.
Twenty-two non-murders included accidental, self-defense and police action killings.
Last year, in his first action as mayor, Hogsett dissolved the Department of Public Safety and replaced it with the Department of Public Health and Safety, reflecting the philosophy that IMPD and the city could not simply arrest its way out of the exploding crime problem.
“It’s not just a public safety issue. It’s a health issue,” said Robinson, referring to the wrap around social services that the city and community agencies are bringing to troubled neighborhoods, “so it’s a combination of those things, providing services to our citizens, in order to reduce our overall numbers of murders and crime in our city.
“We’re building a community partnership with our residents.”
Robinson said the new chief does not necessarily need to reflect the city’s minority community as much as understand its issues.
“I think right now our city needs somebody internal. That’s where the mayor’s leading and I support that effort.
“I think we need someone that’s quality, that understands police community relations.”
Hogsett made clear, as did Riggs before him, that Indianapolis’ record murder and climbing crime rate was years in the making and may be years in the solving.
“Those things can’t be done overnight,” he said, “and we’re making progress and I think that by the end of 2017 I hope to be able to report to the people of Indianapolis an even better a scenario than what we’ve experienced in 2016.”