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IN Focus: Hogsett, Roach look back at 2019 upon chief’s departure

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INDIANAPOLIS - When Mayor Joe Hogsett named Bryan Roach to lead the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in January of 2017, the newly promoted chief said he would commit to serving as the city’s top cop throughout the end of the mayor’s first term.

Joe Hogsett will be sworn in to serve his second term as mayor on January 1, 2020.

Bryan Roach will retire two days later after almost 29 years of wearing an Indianapolis police uniform.

In a recent interview, he shared this advice for the man or woman who follows him:

“Be connected. You gotta show up,” said the chief, “Whether it's four kids that want to play chess with you in a small park on the northwest side or a megachurch that wants to recognize you on a Sunday. You gotta be all in.”

For nearly three decades Roach was “all in,” first as a district officer on the near northside, then as a narcotics detective and later as a commander on the Southwest District and deputy chief of administration before taking over the helm of the department at Hogsett’s behest.

“It was very clear that he wanted me to stay and commit to his first term and at the same time reduce violence.”

While Roach’s tenure will be marked by advancements in technology, community relations, inter-departmental cooperation, training and across the board reductions in crime, the toughest nut he couldn’t crack over the last three years was a significant drop in homicides.

Indianapolis’ homicide totals have set records three years in a row and are just slightly off that pace this year.

“Crime across property and violent crime is about twelve percent down over the last couple years. Violent crime is down even though our non-fatal shootings and homicides not as much,” said Roach, who will now serve as the site security manager of the North American headquarters of Roche Diagnostics.

“I am disappointed in that and as I walk away I wish it had gone down more significantly and I wish it would have happened quicker but I think the things that we have in place and the work that the officers is doing will have an impact.”

Roach said those improvements include expanded beat policing and more cooperation with police departments throughout the metro area with the Indianapolis Violence Reduction Partnership and the Crime Gun Intelligence Center with has played a significant role in removing 2900 firearms from the streets of Indianapolis thus far this year.

The low point of Roach’s term as chief was the June 2017 fatal police action shooting of Aaron Bailey, an unarmed motorist who fled from police.

Roach announced major changes in IMPD training and unsuccessfully attempted to fire the two officers involved in that case as the city eventually reached a financial settlement with Bailey’s family.

“That was difficult but I think it was very important that we as an agency didn’t look defensive but reached out … because that doesn’t happen overnight. That was one incident but the response to that was a buildup of over time about how communities perceived us.”

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Roach joined Hogsett at the IMPD Training Academy Monday to welcome 65 recruits to 28 weeks of academy training.

Those recruits bring Roach and Hogsett close to the mayor’s promise to put 1,743 officers, a net gain of 150 patrolmen and women, on the department by December 31, 2019.

Meantime, the murder epidemic in Indianapolis has claimed another 609 victims during Hogsett’s first term.

“It has been a challenge in many different ways because of the opioid epidemic,” said Hogsett. “It's been a challenge in many ways because we have too many guns on the street. It's been a challenge in many ways because too many young people illegally possess guns and it's been a challenge because we happen to live in a culture today where disputes oftentimes are resolved with gun violence."

“But we’re making progress.”

Hogsett said he sees that progress in hiring more officers and assigning them to walk neighborhood beats.

“The investments we’re making in community based and neighborhood oriented violence reduction, violence prevention, violence intervention, they’re paying dividends and I hope that at the end of the year we will be able to report that the number of homicides are going the right direction, down.”

A year ago on this date Indianapolis was on its way to setting another annual homicide record with 170 killings. That number today is 165.

As for a new chief, assistant Chief Randall Taylor indicated that he has expressed interest in succeeding Roach.

“I’m not going to be hasty about it because when you’re trying to find somebody to fill Bryan Roach’s shoes, that’s a very difficult decision to make and I want it to be right,” said the mayor.

“Now, I’m also sensitive to the fact that I don’t want to lose momentum, but I’m not above the possibility if we get to the end of the year and on Chief Roach’s retirement date naming an interim chief.”

Hogsett was elected to a second term in office last month, handily defeating Republican challenger State Sen. Jim Merritt, who made crime and public safety a key issue on the campaign trail.

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