Council Republicans decry delay in handing out Indy’s anti-violence money

Indianapolis Area Crime

INDIANAPOLIS — On June 2, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced a proposal to spend an additional $3.3 million on police technology and community-based programs to combat the city’s surge in violent crime.

“We introduced it a month ago, and it still hasn’t been approved by the full council yet,” said City-County Councilor Brian Mowery, a Republican from Franklin Township, “and we’re still looking at months, if not years, out from actually using all of that money, so we’re only delaying a potential solution to such a serious issue in our city.”

Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder tweeted that since the mayor’s announcement, 153 people have been shot or stabbed in Indianapolis and 23 have been killed.

City officials said they need to spend taxpayer money wisely, even in the face of an immediate crisis of violence, and the full council won’t consider the proposal until next week.

“This is not something that we will be sitting on for months and months and get out next year,” said Lauren Rodriquez, director of the Office of Public Health and Safety. “This is a top priority for the mayor’s office, for IMPD, for our office, to get these dollars sent out to the community.

“There’s a recognition that we have to attack the immediate issues at the same time of attacking the long term. We just can’t attack the immediate issues and think that we’re fixing the issues overall,” she said. “These immediate issues were long term issues at some point. We need to make sure that we attack it at all fronts.”

The mayor has earmarked $1.5 million for Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department intelligence, technology, data collection and integrity tracking upgrades.

The other $1.8 million in proposed grants would pay for programs aimed at reducing domestic violence, assisting at-risk youth and additional mental health services.

“It’s not all police. It’s not all going toward cops and guns,” said IMPD Deputy Chief Kendale Adams. “It’s gotta be well balanced to address those systemic values, so once you remove the individual from the community who doesn’t deserve to be in our community, you have to have something that comes behind and really addresses those systemic values.

“This is a long-term problem, and there are some immediate fixes that need to be addressed right now,” he said, “and hopefully this fiscal will do that, but we have to be in this for the long run, it’s not something that there’s some silver bullet.”

During a meeting of the City-County Council’s Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee last month, Republicans called for councilors to meet more frequently than once or twice a month to address the violence crisis.

“One of the things we want to do is to hold people accountable and hear updates from them more frequently,” said Mowery. “We want to see people in front of us two times a month at least to be able to give us updates because we’re talking about a serious issue that’s really plaguing our city, and we’re letting it plague our city, and it doesn’t seem like we’re doing enough to stop it.”

Mowery said Committee Chairman Leroy Robinson told him he would loop in other stakeholders on the Criminal Justice Planning Council, including the Marion County sheriff and clerk as well as the public defender’s office, the prosecutor and judges, to determine the feasibility of semi-monthly meetings to provide councilors with more information.

Rodriquez said the city’s request for proposal process can’t be rushed to provide the proper vetting of proposed plans.

“We have to get it approved before the council, and then we will be able to put that out as an RFP to the community to make sure that we get the right organization and grass roots organizations are included in this to expand the work that they’re already doing,” she said. “In anticipation of being approved, we’ve been writing up the process so we have to get that final stamp of approval, get that through to be approved for public consumption for the application and then receive the applications back.

“Typically it’s only 30 days that the application is out to apply for, and then we review on a very quick basis, and we want to make sure we give these dollars priority, and then we can announce it.”

Mowery said he appreciates the safeguards to make sure taxpayer money isn’t wasted.

“I think we’ve already seen some of that in our city with some of the programs we have now,” he said. “I understand where they’re coming from to having to vet people, and I appreciate that, but I think there needs to be a more expedited process to vet these folks to spend this money sooner.”

Long-term problems require long-term solutions, no matter how much we may wish that wasn’t the case. Addressing violence in our community, and gun violence in particular, is the top priority for every member of the Council. While individual Councillors may have different ideas about how to move forward, there is zero disagreement about how urgent and important the issue is. 

Following recommendations from the Public Safety and Criminal Justice committee, the Council has approved every investment in public safety brought before it in the past 18 months. I expect nothing different 6 days from now when the Council takes up the administration’s request for an additional $3.3M for technology supports for IMPD and programs to reduce domestic violence and youth crime. Members of the committee were vocal about the need for sufficient time to review the proposal, which they have now received.

I don’t believe a handful of Councillors discussing violence amongst themselves in extra committee meetings can solve this challenge. Better forums, with broader membership and greater expertise in public safety such as the Marion County Criminal Justice Planning Council, already exist and present plenty of opportunity for convening wider discussions on the challenge of violence in Indianapolis. Our neighbors and loved ones are not dying for a lack of committee meetings. They are not dying for a lack of concern or care. They are dying from a lethal combination of untreated trauma and mental health issues, addiction, deprivation, and ready access to guns. If we want to have a true impact on violence in our city, we have to be ready to face the true root causes.

Chairman Leroy Robinson

The funding will likely not be available until the final quarter of this year.

Wednesday morning, a City County Council spokesperson provided FOX59 with a copy of Chairman Robinson’s response to Councilor Mowery regarding Mowery’s claim that Chairman Robinson is seeking outside input to determine if more information from outside stakeholders is vital to any decision to have council members meet more frequently to address the city’s violence crisis:

Councillor Mowery,

Thank you for your email and thank you for sharing your concerns.  

Sorry for the delay in responding, as I had to set up meetings with a few individuals in an effort to honor your request. 

I believe the Criminal Justice Planning Council, in which you have an appointment, is the best place to convene this discussion. 

Each of the “folks on the frontlines” in which you reference, are members of this council. 

Please let me know of your availability to further discuss this option and get it on the CJPC agenda. 

Chairman Leroy Robinson

OPHS will host an informational session on July 14 at 6 p.m. at 1828 N. Meridian Street for any organizations interested in learning more about the application process. Applications must be submitted online by July 31 of 2021. The link to submit an application for either the Community-Based Violence Prevention Partnership or the COVID-19 Mental Health Services Grant Program can be found here. Any questions or issues concerning the application portal can be submitted in advance of the final application deadline to OPHSgrants@indy.gov.

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