$432M public safety budget holds the line, hires more officers and civilians

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INDIANAPOLIS – Public Safety Director Troy Riggs is introducing a proposed 2014 budget that totals $432 million but holds the line on spending while hiring more police officers and civilian employees.

Riggs unveiled his budget before the City-County Council’s Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee.

The spending plan remains relatively flat compared to the 2013 budget Riggs inherited when he assumed the director’s job nearly a year ago. “We’ve stopped the bleeding,” Riggs said, referring to a trend that saw the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s numbers fall, crime rise and discretionary spending spin out of control.

“The efficiencies added up to hire 45 additional civilian employees between now and the end of next year, and 100 officers between now and the end of 2015,” Riggs said.

Riggs’ budget eats up 82 percent of the city’s general fund. IMPD and Indianapolis Fire Department spending account for 90 percent of the public safety budget.

“We have said no to excessive traveling,” said Riggs. “We are also looking at not paying money for consultants. The things that we have needed to look at we have accomplished in our efficiency teams.

“We haven’t dug too deeply into the past and who spent what. We’re dealing with what we inherited when we got here.”

Upon his arrival in late October of 2012, two months after the departure of controversial predecessor Frank Straub, Riggs found a budget that was floundering in millions of dollars of red ink. He also had to deal with an aging police fleet, questionable training, travel and consultancy budgets and a shrinking police force while facing down a rising crime rate.

“There was some seized drug money that was spent on things that it shouldn’t have been spent on,” Riggs said. “We worked to repay those funds. We have looked at all of our grants to make sure they are being spent appropriately and effectively.

“At all of our major events this year after the Boston bombing we came in under costs compared to the year before because we’re monitoring overtime. We’re looking at staffing needs…how we staff people…introducing business principles.”

Riggs said the department’s greatest asset is its workforce that has persevered while seeing budgets cut, reduced resources, delayed raises and increased crime.

The director is faced with challenges of updating an aging police fleet and reviewing the leases on all public safety building, including the Regional Operations Center, which he shut down a week ago as a fire hazard. Riggs is examining options to renovate and reopen the building.

Alex Carroll, owner of the former Eastgate Consumer Mall that houses the ROC and the IMPD East District Headquarters, told Fox 59 News he will sue for $1 million to recover costs that are the city’s responsibility under the 25-year lease.

Carroll said city fire and code inspectors approved of the building’s construction and he considers it safe. The developer said his crews will now enter the building and perform any further renovation work.