INDIANAPOLIS — As many as four times a week, IMPD officers on North District late shift are starting their day at different locations, connecting with their community, while simultaneously working to deter and prevent crime.
These “roving roll calls” aren’t new to the department, but they are happening more than ever on one shift in particular, thanks to an effort led by Lieutenant Larry Adkins, a supervisor on North District late shift.
“We do roving roll calls, but not at the volume that I was proposing to do,” said Adkins.
Adkins returned to operations about six months ago from his role with the department’s Community Outreach and Engagement Bureau, where he gained an even deeper perspective on relationship-building in the community, and said he was excited to bring that back with him on the road.
“In operations, more times you’re dealing with calls for service, but also everything we do is about people and community,” said Adkins.
When he brought the idea to increase roving roll calls to his higher-ups, including North District Commander Michael Wolley, Adkins said they were on board with the idea.
“He spent the last several years in the Community Outreach Bureau, where he played with kids, he went to community meetings, he really sat and listened to some of the concerns of the community and when he was promoted to lieutenant he came back to operations,” said Wolley. “What’s really cool and creative is he’s brought some of those ideas, and he’s kind of merging them into how we do things operationally at least on that shift.”
Right now, late shift is holding anywhere from 10 to 20 roving roll calls per month, and on nights when they’re held, officers typically split into three groups that meet in different locations.
The spots chosen for roving roll calls are based on what data reveals about current crime trends or hot spots for violence and other heightened activity. Other times, neighborhood associations or residents will reach out and request places they’d like to see officers come for roving roll call.
During roll calls at the start of each shift, officers cover things from attendance, to crime trends, or concerns raised by people in the community, but by bringing them out into the community, they can have these conversations with people firsthand.
“Then we can get input from them and feedback on how they feel their community is being policed by us,” said Adkins.
On Thursday night, nearly two dozen officers gathered in a parking lot along Broad Ripple Avenue. The location was chosen partly because it’s been deemed by the district as an entertainment zone due to the high numbers of people going into businesses, bars, and visiting the area on some weeknights and weekends.
Officers also hoped by meeting here it would deter any potential criminal activity or redirect behaviors that could lead to something more, including violence.
Several people, including two young men on skateboards, were talking to officers and sharing a bit more on why they enjoy getting out to ride them. Others asked why the officers were there, and when they learned what roving roll call was, said they were glad to know it was for proactive reasons.
“Usually when law enforcement is entering a situation it’s someone’s worst day, or at least it’s a bad day for them, where they’ve experienced some sort of trauma or something has happened where we have to intervene and help,” said Wolley. “Imagine a world when the first time you interact with an officer is in a positive community setting; one where you get to know Michael, and not Commander Wolley and you get to know a little bit about me.”
The area along Broad Ripple Ave. has been the site of several shootings this year, including one on July 10 that left a man critically injured. As investigators worked at the scene, other officers were utilized for crowd and traffic control for the sizeable crowds pouring out of bars as the night ended.
It’s not the only place they’ve held roving roll call. Other locations have included apartment complexes where they’re been invited out to, areas like 25th Street and Hillside Avenue, Tarkington Park, 34th Street and Keystone Avenue, which has been the site of several shootings this year, including one in June that left an outreach worker with the city’s violence reduction team dead, and more.
“We try to meet all of the needs and get to some of the most underserved communities. That’s really important to to interact with those citizens so that they know we are there and we care about what happens with them,” said Adkins.
Community activist James Wilson, CEO and founder of Circle Up Indy, said he is glad to see the ramped-up efforts underway on North District to bridge the gaps between law enforcement and residents.
“The officers are taking the time out to try and make the connection. Again, that falls back on us to kind of accept that piece, but when they’re taking the steps forward to make that needed connection or try to make that needed connection, that’s a strong start for me,” said Wilson.
Wilson’s nonprofit aims to improve the quality of life for all residents of Indy by addressing issues of violence, taking on socioeconomic disparities, and disparities in education and employment. He communicates often with North District and said he appreciates the way they’ve also taken his feedback.
“It creates a level of respect for the community. That’s the ultimate piece that falls behind it,” said Wilson.
On top of crime prevention, deterrent, and community engagement, Wilson said he believes these opportunities also help officers understand the people in the community, especially when it comes to mental health, an area he also advocates for.
“To me, that is a beginning step of a whole new what we call evolution. We’re tired of “change,” right. Change moves forward and moves backward. Our goal is to move our society, our community, and our residents forward,” Wilson said. “When officers go out and about and they engage, officers start to have the respect for them, and it goes both ways, because then we know officer such and such.”
Anyone looking to have a roving roll call come to them on North District is encouraged to reach out by calling 317-327-6100.