Hundred more cops to take runs on city streets

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As reassignments have added 100 metro police officers to take runs in city neighborhoods, a report obtained by Fox 59 News reveals Indianapolis needs to hire 685 new officers to meet national standards.

The Police Personnel Allocation Efficiency Team Summary Report examined the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s manpower and assignments, and determined how the department could redeploy its officers to more effectively respond to calls for assistance.

“It was determined that hiring more officers is the only way to effectively staff the department,” reads the report on its opening page. “The very minimum national average for police officers to population is 2.5 per 1,000 people. The current staffing at IMPD is 1.7 officers per 1,000 persons. To reach this ratio, IMPD would need to hire 685 new officers.”

IMPD currently expects to lose approximately 45 veteran officers to retirement this year.

The department has a force of 1,586 officers to protect 900,000 people. For the sake of comparison, Columbus, Ohio, has 1,827 officers for 778,000 citizens and Memphis, Tenn., has 2,450 officers to serve 652,000 residents.

“No chief in the land would turn down an additional 600 cops,” said IMPD Chief Rick Hite. “But we have to look at it scientifically. Look at the need. For this city it is a little different. Indy style means we have to balance events with proactive policing.”

More than 80 of the officers reassigned to patrol duties are Neighborhood Resource Officers.

“The NROs right now handle the things we can’t get the street officers to handle,” said Rachel Cooper of the Southeast Community Organization, which has a close working relationship with officers of the southeast district in Fountain Square. “We got drug dealing. We got people fighting. We got people arguing over trash. NROs can solve that before it becomes a homicide.”

She continued, “I don’t see an officer too much. NROs is all I’ve got to work with because an officer is running. He don’t have time to communicate with me.”

Hite said NROs have always been troubleshooters. Now, as they have been assigned to take runs in hot spot neighborhoods, it is hoped they will bring their troubleshooting skills to other parts of their zone and, likewise, their troubleshooting approach will be adopted by other patrol officers.

“So the commanders saw fit to take those individuals and put them in hot spot areas and clean up those areas and at the same time engage in that community,” said Hite.

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs has been reluctant to ask Mayor Greg Ballard for additional funding to hire more officers until he can prove he’s getting all the work he can out of the force he has.

If this approach is successful in assigning more officers to take runs quicker in neighborhoods, Riggs hopes he will find more money through budget savings to pay for more civilian employees, police officer raises and a police recruit class in 2014.

A handful of the officers reassigned to take patrol runs have been replaced by lower paid civilian employees. Riggs said he has identified 35 to 45 positions currently filled by police officers that could be done by civilians at a fraction of the salary and support costs.

Ballard recently vetoed a City-County Council decision to spend $5 million of public works money on a 2014 recruit class.

The mayor has repeatedly campaigned on his ability to pay for city services without a universal property tax increase.

“I’d say, ‘Raise my taxes!'” said Cooper. “I’d rather be public safety. I rather see that I got security in my neighborhood than worry about a five or ten dollar raise that’s going out to all the people here in Indianapolis. Ten dollars is not even going to make us or break us but public safety will.”

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