Coats, Donnelly discuss Ukraine plane crash, meetings with police

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By Dan Spehler

INDIANAPOLIS (July 18, 2014) – Several members of Indiana’s congressional delegation were in the Hoosier state on Friday, as news began to break of an IU student being among the casualties of Thursday’s plane crash in eastern Ukraine.

“(It’s) a tragic situation, not just for the IU student, but for all who were on that plane,” said Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana.

“It’s an extraordinary tragedy,” said Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana. “It’s an act of war obviously, so we need answers.”

“(It’s) sad to see an IU student die (and) sad to see more fellow human beings die as a result,” said Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana.

“The conflict in the Ukraine has obviously gone to the next level when we have civilian airplanes being shot down, so it’s just tragic and I’m so very sorry for the families,” said Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Indiana.

“This is ought to be a breaking point for the world. The world ought to see that what’s going on there, initiated by Putin and Russia is simply not acceptable,” said Coats. “They’re the ones that precipitated this and they’re the ones who can stop it and we need to put the pressure on them through the world community to rise up and say enough.”

“We need to send the strongest message possible,” said Donnelly.

The lawmakers came to Indianapolis on Friday for the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration luncheon, where they were joined by Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard, and police chief Rick Hite.

Earlier in the week, officials from the Fraternal Order of Police traveled to Washington to meet with Indiana’s congressional delegation, sharing their concerns about violent crime in Indy.

“It was a very productive trip,” said local FOP vice president Rick Snyder. “We had good conversations with our Indiana delegation there 4145}

“It was a very productive discussion, and it was a very good discussion,” said Brooks.

“Obviously there’s a heightened sense this year after all the tragedy we’ve had here in Indianapolis,” said Donnelly. “So my goal is to work non-stop together with them (and) with the mayor.”

In comments to reporters throughout the week, Mayor Ballard hasn’t held back when sharing his thoughts on the push for more officers.

“It’s a false dynamic to suggest more police are going to solve this. That’s not even close to the truth,” said Ballard on Friday.

“We have a limited role we can play,” said Coats. “We can help with grants and so forth but really this is an all community effort to solve.”

The grants Coats mentioned are also part of the debate – after FOX59 learned the mayor’s office decided not to apply for a federal grant, that could have paid for more officers, at least in the short term. But the mayor said it wouldn’t be a sustainable move in the long run.

“There’s always a catch to it at the other end,” said Ballard. “The city has to be responsible for it financially, so that’s why.”

“That’s $1.5 million that is free money that could be an immediate infusion into this equation,” said Snyder. “In terms of not having sustainable dollars, we beg to differ. Every year we lose 50 officers due to normal attrition.”

“I’m always disappointed when the city doesn`t go after more money to get police officers,” said Carson. “I’m a former cop and I know how important that is, but I met with the mayor this week (and) he’s expressed an interest to work together with me.”

But can the mayor and the police union work together to come up with a compromise?

“We would rather stop pointing fingers and start pointing to solutions,” said Snyder. “No one has ever said more police officers is the sole solution here but we can tell you is it’s the biggest common denominator in any other solution that’s proposed.”

Watch our full interviews with Sens. Coats and Donnelly below:

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