Ministers tell mayor to bring back public safety director job

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Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett during a press conference May 31, 2020.

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INDIANAPOLIS — When he ran for mayor in 2015, Joe Hogsett announced he would abolish the job of Public Safety Director to oversee IMPD and IFD because he intended to become Indianapolis’ “Public Safety Mayor.”

With Indianapolis on pace to set a new homicide total by the end of the year, a group of more than a dozen ministers told Mayor Hogsett Tuesday it was time to put someone else in charge of the city’s public safety.

“The first recommendation is to hire a Director of Public Safety because we have had experience in the past,” said Aaron Williams of the City of Peace Coalition. “Our recommendation of hiring a Director of Public Safety is someone who lives in Indianapolis now and has a great track record of working with the community.”

Under Hogsett, the chiefs of IMPD and IFD report directly to the mayor with a Director of Public Health and Safety handling administrative responsibilities alongside a Director of Community Violence Reduction.

“We have to coordinate the crime prevention strategy that we have across the city with all groups all across the city in neighborhoods if it’s going to be successful in reducing the violence in the city,” said Rev. Charles Harrison of the Ten Point Coalition.

The ministers also presented the mayor with five more suggestions that even they admit are frankly more doable than reversing Hogsett’s abolishment of the Public Safety Director post.

“In addition, we’re asking for a rapid response team of faith community and OGs to help at non-fatal shootings and stabbings and homicides,” said Williams who also listed a Peace in the Streets marketing campaign, more neighborhood peace walks, parent patrols downtown on Friday and Saturday nights and more coordination between the city and IMPD with community groups on their wish list.

“In order for us to be an effective partner and help reduce violence and reduce crime in our neighborhoods, you have to have us at the table,” said Williams. “We don’t want to be sitting back on the sidelines waiting. We want to be at the table and not on the menu.”

The Coalition said it had more meetings scheduled with both Hogsett and IMPD Chief Randy Taylor next week.

After greeting reporters upon his arrival, Mayor Hogsett departed by a side door at Barnes United Methodist Church to avoid TV cameras and questions about the Coalition’s first suggestion that he surrender the mantle of “Public Safety Mayor.”

Wednesday, Hogsett is set to lead a walk along the downtown canal, site of two homicides and other recent violence.

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