Council to get update on Marion County Sheriff’s Office review before potential vote

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A review of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office operations and finances so far has found the office has not been sufficiently funded to do its job and recommends operational changes, according to a presentation expected to be given to Indianapolis City-County councillors Wednesday.

Mayor Joe Hogsett called for the review last fall. Wednesday, councillors on the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee are expected to hear an update from the Office of Audit and Performance on the assessment before a potential vote on the public safety and criminal justice portion of the city’s proposed 2019 budget.

The analysis found the sheriff office’s overtime increased by 128 percent from 2015-2017, growing from $2.1 million to $4.8 million.

It also found arrests, jail bookings and the average daily jail population grew. The number of criminal warrants and the number of protective orders received grew by more than 100 percent each. Staffing levels fell, while the department’s attrition rate increased by 3 percent.

It said the cost of providing arrestee transportation has remained consistent at $2.1-$2.3 million a year from 2015-2017 but may not capture the true cost of transport. The sheriff last year announced stopping arrestee transport services, but later said they would continue until at least mid-2018. During IMPD’s budget hearing, Chief Roach told councillors his department was spending money as well transporting arrestees.

The assessment by KPMG preliminarily recommends changes to the operating model, including opportunities expanding demand management and optimizing overtime use.

The Assessment Update, essentially a work in progress, fueled the twin proposed 2019 sheriff’s office budgets developed by Sheriff John Layton’s staff and Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration.

Layton is requesting $120 million to fund the office and jail the year after his term ends.

Hogsett has countered with a $115 million spending proposal.

A budget presentation to the City County Council’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee last month focused on jail staff overtime costs, lack of pay parity and the expense of arrestee transportation, a non-constitutional task Layton says he voluntarily undertakes.

The spending plan presentation made no mention of budgeted 2018 positions that remain unfilled, external costs such as patrol cars, the motorcycle drill team and warrant and sex offender compliance deputies and revenue streams such as the inmate commissary or phone system, all items that could be explored for additional savings or added funds to relieve the sheriff’s financial burden.

While the assessment determined that the sheriff’s budget has been actually reduced by three percent, when adjusted for inflation, since 2005, a crucial turning point in the MCSO operations and spending came in the wake of a 2007 merger with the Indianapolis Police Department that never realized the anticipated $8.8 million in savings that were forecasted.

A 2014 audit of the merger found in seven years, MCSO’s manpower had recovered to three-quarters of its pre-merger strength despite the surrender of road patrol deputies and investigative units and the narrowing of its responsibilities to jail operations, City County Building security and warrants and sex offender enforcement.

The current assessment notes that sheriff’s staffing fell five percent from 2015 to 2017 which may be due to the 21%-24% MCSO attrition rate which is abnormally high by national standards.

Auditors also found that examination of the 2018 sheriff’s fleet inventory was a low priority and there is no mention of the staffing levels in units outside of the jail.

MCSO said it saves $550,000 annually through the utilization of unpaid reserve deputies and received $714,000 in grants for various programs to fund trauma, addiction and substance abuse and mental health issues inside the jail.

The Assessment team indicates it has more analysis to complete before issuing its final report in December.

Layton has long said he expects the assessment to confirm his contention that the office has been underfunded for the tasks it has been mandated and volunteered to undertake.