Prosecutor Curry: Understaffed, aging police force creating public safety crisis for Indy

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Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry is adding to the conversation about Indianapolis’ shortage of police officers. In a two-page letter to Mayor Greg Ballard Monday, Curry called the city’s lack of public safety funding a crisis.

The Criminal Justice Planning Council discussed Curry’s letter Monday afternoon.

“For the past several months when meeting with neighborhood associations, faith groups and other organizations, I have become a broken record with two messages: our public safety agencies are woefully underfunded and, as a community, we must undertake a substantive discussion about how we address this crisis,” wrote Curry.

Curry said IMPD officers are spread too thin. He cited a recent incident when Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson was sent to a crime scene because there were no homicide detectives available.

The department is short by an estimated 685 officers. Nearly half of the force is also eligible for retirement.

“If we don’t have an honest dialogue about this, in four or five years, it could be a crisis,” said Troy Riggs, Indianapolis Public Safety Director. “[But] what can we afford? That’s the tough part.”

With 85 percent of the city’s budget already going to public safety, Riggs said hiring hundreds of police officers would cost an additional $84 million. Raising the public safety tax, some recommend, is also not favorable.

Instead, Riggs and the mayor have announced plans to reshuffle 100 officers back on the streets. They also plan to hire another 100 officers by the end of 2016.

City leaders, with the help of local businesses, have also set in motion a public-private partnership foundation to fund programs like better training for first-line supervisors, or offer initiatives to reward police officers.

“Right now, I think we have a manageable situation. We’re working very hard. We’re working to be as efficient and as effective,” said Riggs.

The city of Indianapolis is facing a $55 million shortfall next year. Mayor Ballard is expected to present his budget to the City-County Council on Aug. 19.