INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The only other job Chris Bailey has ever had aside from protecting the streets of Indianapolis as a sworn police officer was as a lifeguard for Indy Parks.
“I love this place. I love this city,” he said. “Everything that I have in my life is because of this job.”
Bailey’s 20 years as a policeman in Indianapolis came to an end this past week as he turned in his badge, packed his truck and left for Asheville, North Carolina, where he becomes the chief of police Monday morning.
Bailey said he leaves with no regrets.
“That’s always been my goal no matter where I’m at: find the smart people, put them in the room, work together, make it better than [how] you got it no matter how good it was, and leave it in good hands when you walk out the door.”
Bailey walks out the door as the IMPD Deputy Chief of Investigations, the commander responsible for the detectives who arrive on the scene to solve the hundreds of shootings and killings and thousands of accumulated burglaries, robberies, sexual assaults and vehicle thefts that occur in Indianapolis every year.
During the last decade of his career, Bailey has been at the table when chiefs and top commanders have wrestled with scandal, controversial shootings, budget cuts, hiring freezes and climbing crime rates.
He was also on the job when IMPD remade itself, enhanced cultural awareness education, improved staffing, fixed a faulty communication system, boosted detective training, created crime gun intelligence analysis and beat policing and encouraged public outreach.
“Residential burglaries have been going down, steadily down, for years,” said Bailey. “Our robbery numbers are down by hundreds of incidents because I think of the great work of our robbery detectives and the covert robbery unit which focuses on serial robbers.”
According to the most recent numbers available as published by the FBI, violent crime in Indianapolis dropped by 10% from the first half of 2017 when compared to the first half of 2018.
Homicides recorded through July 28 for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 showed a decrease from 87 to 91 to 84.
Non-fatal shooting incidents through July 8 dropped from 227 in 2018 to 216 this year.
Bailey attributes the reduction in violence to IMPD’s emphasis on disrupting so-called “trigger pullers” who are inclined to be involved in several gunfire incidents before shootings and murders occur.
“We have to be very specific on those folks that are creating violence and why they’re creating the violence,” said Bailey. “That’s why we’re focusing on ballistic forensics and our partnership with the ATF and through the Crime Gun Intelligence Center. We’re getting information that comes back that says Person A probably has been involved in at least two incidents of gun violence whether they’ve shot at a person, hit a person, they just shot at a house, whatever it is, and that needs to be your focus because they’re gonna continue to do that until we disrupt the shooting cycle, either removing them off the street or taking that gun off the street in order to stop that from being involved in violent crime.”
On July 19, Brendyn Woods became the 152nd person arrested as the result of information developed by IMPD’s new Crime Gun Intelligence Center which focuses on serious violent felons who are armed and statistically inclined to be involved in shootings.
27 of those cases have been referred to federal prosecutors.
IMPD’s homicide clearance rate has improved more than 20% in the past couple years, and recently promoted detectives throughout the department are undergoing a training regime similar to that of newly hired officers who are paired with veterans to learn policing.
The Indianapolis Violence Reduction Project brings detectives from throughout the metro area to meet together twice a month and share information of recent crimes and suspects.
“Criminals don’t see borders, they don’t see Indianapolis and Fishers and all that when they commit their crimes. They see the opportunities,” said Bailey. “As we impact it here in Indianapolis and Marion County, they’ll take their business to the other counties, so it’s important for us to share information.”
Bailey said just as investigators cracked down on pharmacy robberies a couple years ago, detectives are now focused on halting cell phone store stickups.
Perhaps the most significant public safety improvement in the last three years has been the hiring of hundreds of new police officers to replace retirees while boosting IMPD’s overall staffing levels to allow more concentrated patrolling of communities.
“The real purpose behind that is to get back to neighborhood beat-based policing, where our officers are all community relations officers,” said Bailey. “They can patrol smaller geographic areas, they can know the people, know the crime, they know the areas they need to focus on, specifically the people, and working with the community we can impact them better.”
Bailey said that includes the department becoming more aware of the poverty, food insecurity, mental health and addiction issues that drive crime and unrest at the neighborhood level.
“We have a great community in Indianapolis. There’s really nothing like it anywhere else that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve had an opportunity to travel around the country and visit other police departments, and we just have some really great people here, and I think they understand what their role is in keeping their community safe, and they’re doing all they can to do it.”
In taking the top job with the Asheville Police Department, Bailey will oversee 238 officers in a city of 89,000 people nestled into the mountains of western North Carolina. He said his first task is to begin building bridges with the community.
Bailey leaves behind a city where he’s spent his whole life and raised a family, which will eventually follow him to the new assignment.
“This ship will continue to sail,” Bailey said, “and it’ll continue to get better because we have great people, we’ve put great people in the right places, and they’re gonna continue to make Indianapolis the best large city police department in the country.”