INDIANAPOLIS — At the end of a tumultuous year that saw one officer murdered, two indicted for their responses during the spring riots and a community that rose up and demanded change and accountability, IMPD officers are set to vote on a new four year contract with the City of Indianapolis.
The proposed agreement was approved by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86 Executive Board last week and offers raises at a time when other police departments throughout Central Indiana are making a play for veteran IMPD officers.
The contract includes an across-the-board payment to all officers of $3,629 in 2021, no raise in 2022, followed by a two percent hike in 2023 and a three percent increase in 2024.
The pact also mandates IMPD will maintain a minimal staffing level of 1743 officers starting in 2021, a goal that has been difficult to reach the past couple years as IMPD has experienced greater than expected retirements and resignations of officers.
“I think it’s extremely important to get to 1743,” said City County Councilman Paul Annee, Jr., a republican from Indianapolis’ south side. “not only do you have to recruit new folks, but you have to retain folks as well, and with the department as old as it is, that’s extremely important heading into 2021.”
Several cities are making attractive bids with lateral transfers to hire away veteran officers from their current departments.
Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore recently made an on-camera pitch during a recruitment video by reaching out to prospective officers.
“We’re prepared to show you the respect you deserve to protect the community we love. You’re welcome in Kokomo,” Moore said, where the starting pay is $59,444, nearly nine thousand dollars more than IMPD pays rookie officers.
Tipton Police are offering veteran officers $5,000 to make a lateral transfer, while Greenwood PD is paying $60,000 to transferring officers with at least three years experience.
Due to the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield, which trains hundreds of officers every year for smaller departments in the state, has been forced to suspend training for its most recent recruit class, leaving police chiefs and sheriffs desperate to fill empty positions in their departments.
“That would mean that folks in Central Indiana law enforcement programs and across and the state are going to be looking specifically at the largest department in the state, which is the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department,” said Annee, “so departments have made it clear, from Kokomo to Columbus to Greenwood to Zionsville, that they are going to recruit in these lateral transfers, so we have to be very proactive in giving these officers every reason to want to stay. That includes contracts and pay, but that also includes the important support from the city and the administration that they really desperately need and deserve.”
Last summer, in the wake of the riots and the perceived lack of support from Mayor Joe Hogsett, an FOP survey of officers found 83% have less than high morale, 93% said they felt they did not have the backing of the mayor in their day-to-day work and 91% said they did not feel respected and valued by Hogsett.
Just 21% said they felt they had the support of IMPD Chief Randal Taylor.
IMPD has consistently predicted an average of approximately 70 officers would retire or resign from the department in any given year as the City has sought to boost its hiring and training efforts to increase the overall size of the department.
In 2019, 111 new officers were hired and 110 left IMPD.
This year it was anticipated that 55 officers would leave but 95 sworn personnel have already separated from Metro PD.
“I think this contract will convince a majority of the individuals to stay with the department, hopefully,” said Annee. “Even if it was a perfect contract, you’re still going to have trouble retaining officers because of the low morale, because of the issues that we see, so, not only do you have to get as close to perfect as possible, you also have to convince those officers to stay, so it’s going to be a struggle.”
Last week, IMPD discovered that at least three of its vehicles were painted with graffiti while parked outside of Downtown District Headquarters.
IMPD refused comment on the vandalism.
Monday night, Annee said he will introduce a resolution before the Council to designate a strip of Shelby Street between Cottage Avenue and Olive Street in Fountain Square be made available to paint a “Back The Blue” message on the pavement near FOP headquarters to show support for IMPD officers.
“We’ve seen some vandalism recently as well as some other things as officers have been targeted this year here in Indianapolis,” said Annee who indicates he has a democrat co-sponsor for his resolution. “We want our police to know they have some support from the city and we stand with them during a very challenging time in our city.”
FOP leadership declined comment on the proposed contract until officers finish voting Wednesday night.
Hogsett’s office did not respond when asked for a comment on the proposed pact.