Bill Benjamin, a former deputy chief of investigations for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, announced he would accept candidate Jim Merritt’s offer to become police chief if the north side republican state senator wins the mayoral election November 5.
Merritt is taking on incumbent Joe Hogsett as the Democrat seeks his second term.
Benjamin, a Democrat, said he offered Hogsett 25 tactics and strategies to combat crime when the mayor reached out to him in the spring of 2018 to determine if the retired commander would consider working with IMPD.
Hogsett never responded to his proposals, said Benjamin, who declined to list those ideas when asked how he would improve public safety in Indianapolis if Merritt were to win the election and name his new chief.
“It’s really quite simple,” said Benjamin as he recalled IMPD’s homicide clearance rate of 80% when he was in charge of detectives in 2008. “If you catch a murderer very quickly, there’s no space for retaliation because the great IMPD has them. So it reduces retaliation against the family members, against the killer, against the stabber, against the rapist, because the IMPD has that person, and that’s the nugget you can get from my playbook.”
Benjamin was asked if he was in alignment with Merritt on the candidate’s call to more aggressively stop and question residents in neighborhoods where crimes have been committed.
“If I stopped you, I had a reason to do it, and I had probable cause to do it, and my officers will do the same,” he said.
Merritt also recently endorsed Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, who said his office will no longer prosecute criminal cases alleging possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
“We’re still gonna stop you if you have marijuana on you,” said Benjamin, predicting what his directive would be if he were named chief. “It may not be prosecuted, and you may not be charged with it, but that stopping charge is on the books legally, and so we’ll use that as a tool to dig further into who you are and what you’re doing.”
Two hours later, during an address to the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, Merritt was asked if his decision to name Benjamin chief if he was elected was part of a “black agenda.”
“Bill Benjamin is the best man for the job, and that is the solution,” said Merritt.
Merritt attended the conference to unveil an agenda for the African-American community of Indianapolis.
The agenda includes more transparency and a commitment to community involvement to address what he termed as “economic, educational and public safety deserts” in the city.
The Hogsett campaign responded for the second week in a row with a statement endorsing the job current IMPD Chief Bryan Roach has done. The response highlighting a commitment to community policing and improvements in investigative technology.
Indianapolis’ murder total is slightly behind last year’s record pace, and recent statistics reported by IMPD and released by the FBI show violent crime and overall crime numbers within the city are continuing to trend downward.
FOX59 will host a debate between Hogsett and Merritt on October 28.
Hogsett’s office also announced that it was postponing a gun buyback event that was scheduled for October 19.
$35,000 had been set aside to fund gift cards that would be traded for firearms “no questions asked.”
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the mayor issued a statement that read, “We’ve heard from clergy who would like to be more involved in the event and postponed it to allow the time for them to be more engaged.”
A new date for the gun buyback has yet to be determined.