Study of 2007 IMPD merger shows no money was saved

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By Russ McQuaid

INDIANAPOLIS (July 16, 2014) – In 2004, as part of his “Indy Works” plan to merge several functions of city and county government, then-Mayor Bart Peterson’s proposal to combine the Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department predicted that $8.8 million in annual savings would pay for the consolidation.

After several years of refusal to fulfill obligations for an audit of the merger under the original City-County Council consolidation ordinance, a recently completed but selectively revealed report finds that the savings were never realized.

In a study dated last February, in response to a 2013 council resolution demanding an audit, KSM Consulting reports that various factors, unrealistic predictions or unanticipated costs came together to doom the budget savings promised.

It was estimated that the consolidation, which took place on January 1, 2007 and combined the patrol and investigative responsibilities of IPD and MCSD into the new Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, would save $300,000 through better management, $1.3 million in reduced facilities and fleet costs, $1.5 million in support services, $1.4 million in budget efficiencies and $4.3 million in personnel costs.

The report finds it didn’t happen.

Management savings were negligible, facilities savings were eaten up by contracted lease costs, unforeseen technology costs negated the support services predictions, contracted jail medical and food costs wiped out budget efficiencies and overtime and Social Security spending, combined with pay raises, actually increased personnel costs, according to KSM analysts.

Administrative staffing and turnover, legislative and judicial decisions and changing public safety needs on behalf of IMPD and MCSD were also found to be contributing factors, though the report found that, “…public safety needs…remains the highest priority.”

In 2006, the last full year before the merger, IPD had a sworn and civilian workforce of 1,510 employees; the sheriff’s department 1,352.

In 2013, after absorbing road patrols and investigative responsibilities for virtually the entire county outside of the cities of Cumberland, Lawrence, Beech Grove, Clermont and Speedway, IMPD listed 1,752 employees. The sheriff’s department, with its main responsibilities restricted to jail and City-County Building duties as well as warrants and sex offender registry investigations, had 989 employees, leaving the departments together more than 100 employees short of their 2006 rosters.

The acquisition of this report by FOX59 News comes as the council, Mayor Greg Ballard, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs, IMPD Chief Rick Hite and the Fraternal Order of Police are engaged in a debate regarding the boosting of IMPD’s manpower level to compensate for the expected retirements of 50-100 officers annually in the years to come.

A bipartisan commission reported this spring that an ideal workforce of approximately 1,750 officers is needed to safely patrol the streets of the city which is experiencing a spike in murders and the shooting of police officers.

Officer Perry Renn was shot to death responding to a report of a man with a gun July 5.

IMPD currently has about 1,500 sworn officers with 59 recruits at the department’s training academy and the expectation that 20-30 new officers will also be hired and trained next year.

That same commission recommended the city apply for a federal COPS grant which the FOP claims would have covered the hiring and salaries of 15 officers for three years.

Mayor Greg Ballard’s office told FOX59 News that the city chose not to apply for the grant because it would be irresponsible to accept funds to hire and pay officers without a long-term spending plan to equip them and continue their salaries once the grant money ran out.

The mayor told reporters Monday that the hiring of more officers will not alone solve Indianapolis’ crime problems. Ballard said that there must be wholesale changes in society, family dynamics and youth education as well as state sentencing guidelines to curb violence in the city.

Councilman Frank Mascari, a Beech Grove democrat, led the charge in forcing the Ballard Administration to undertake the long-delayed merger audit which was called for in the original consolidation ordinance passed in 2005.

“Its like pulling teeth just to get the report,” said Mascari. “The report was done in February and I just received a copy of it three and a half weeks ago.

“They sandbagged or held on to this report for a long time.

“It shows that we really didn’t save any money.”

Sergeant Vince Huber was president of Local 86 of the Fraternal Order of Police and sat in on study committees and visited Louisville, Kentucky, where a similar consolidation was undertaken.

“The members of the council and the city were very straightforward with us and said, ‘Do not tell your citizens this will save more money. It will cost more money.’”

Huber said he was always skeptical of Mayor Peterson’s promise to cut costs and provide more streamlined services to Indianapolis and Marion County.

“The biggest promise that the mayor made and members of the council and his staff was that there would be millions of dollars saved through the consolidation,” said Huber. “Countless numerous promises were made that things were going to be better, that there would be more officers on the streets and it would save taxpayers millions of dollars.

“We were thoughtful enough to think that if there were going to be savings that the citizens might suffer because of that and we were never given the proof of the efficiencies of being more effective and the cost savings.”

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