Seattle Police Department to attempt to poach Indianapolis cops

(Photo courtesy of Robert Scheer/IndyStar)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – There’s a billboard along the southern stretch of Shadeland Avenue near English Avenue on the southeast side, announcing that the Seattle Police Department wants to recruit IMPD officers to pull up stakes and move to the Pacific Northwest.

“Which actually I take as a compliment,” Mayor Joe Hogsett told a gathering at the University of Indianapolis this morning, “that Seattle has determined that the level of quality candidates professionalism exemplified by IMPD and by the people of our community is worthy of them spending money to recruit people to go to Seattle so I take that as a compliment.”

“The first response is, ‘Well, they must see something here in the Midwest with our police officers that they want or need there in Seattle,’” said IMPD Bryan Roach, “so it makes you feel good, but at the same time, I’m upset because those are the same people we’re trying to draw.”

The Seattle police billboard announces the department will undertake lateral testing to determine if trained and certified officers from Indiana meet the SPD standards in Indianapolis in late November.

Whether the billboard sparks pride or outrage, the issue of lateral transfers is a legitimate recruitment tool as IMPD also recently opened its own lateral transfer process in an attempt to hire enough veteran officers to flesh out the department’s academy training classes.

“I think there are still 55 lateral transfers that are still in the process,” said Roach, “so we’ll look at how many of those we’ll need. I would like to have a class of 70-75 in December so we can overcome some of the attrition we had this year.”

Hogsett and Roach addressed the Seattle poaching attempt during the opening session of the IMPD Diversity & Inclusion Think Tank convened to develop a program to boost the department’s minority recruitment, training and promotion processes.

Approximately four dozen community leaders were introduced to IMPD’s recruitment and application process amid a changing racial and social environment.

“I think that the approaches IMPD has identified for this are outstanding. The model around inclusive and excellence and really kind of connecting to real tangible results is so important,” said Sean Huddleston, Vice President for Inclusion & Equity at the University of Indianapolis. “Inclusion is about the intentional efforts to do something with the diversity that you have. That’s the intention of this group to help IMPD understand how to achieve inclusion, how to make sure that the many many voices and perspectives and innovative ideas and identities are not just represented but involved.”

In the wake of the fatal IMPD shooting of Aaron Bailey, an unarmed fleeing motorist last year, the department began Implicit Bias Training for its police workforce and boosted its recruitment of minority candidates.

“52 percent of the residents of Marion County are women and yet only 12-13 percent of our sworn offices on IMPD are women. The African American community makes up 30 percent of the Indianapolis population and yet we’re only at about half that number in terms of African American rank and file sworn officers,” said Hogsett. “The process surrounding the Aaron Bailey investigation was a very difficult one not only for the community but for the police force itself, so we learn as we go.”

IMPD’s 16th Academy class is currently on the streets of Indianapolis with field training officers. 26 of its 50 officers are white males reflecting a nearly 50 percent makeup of females or minorities.

IMPD’s 17th Academy class, due for graduation to FTO training next spring, has 23 white males among its 39 recruits.

“I think it not only improves policing because the community has greater trust and faith in its officers but it also at the same time improves the overall relationship between police officers and the community,” said Hogsett.

The task force is charged with developing a plan to focus on access and equity, the climate of perceptions and experiences, learning and development and diversity in core offerings and recruitment.

“The fact that we have so many leaders, thought leaders, in that room,” said Huddleston, “we’re gonna bring best practices and lessons learned from the individual work that they do. I think it’s going to be paying it forward to other groups and other organizations.”