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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Joe Hogsett shares details about agenda, 100-day plan

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You’ve seen Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett behind the podium at numerous news conferences and events, you heard his campaign promises and you’re likely aware of some of his plans for the city.

One major initiative Hogsett has recently announced is the 100-day plan to deal with the city’s public safety crisis. The Indianapolis Recorder recently sat down with Hogsett to try to go beyond the prepared press statements and learn more about the plan and other aspects of his blueprints for his time in office.

Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper: Tell me more about the 100-day plan.

Hogsett: First of all, I want to emphasize it’s just a 100-day plan. So it’s a start. I don’t want any of your readers to misinterpret my intention as thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to be able to resolve all of these public safety-related issues in 100 days.’ It just simply, I thought, was a good way of conveying prioritization in an immediate timeframe. And frankly, at the end of 100 days, we may see no discernible change in the percentage of homicides or aggravated assaults. It is not an initiative that is designed to do anything other than put in place what I think the next four years will emphasize.

That’s point number one. The hundred days is just a way of articulating what the priorities in the immediate short-term will be. Number two would be the oriented effort to continue to prioritize the focus areas. I believe that the focus areas as they were originally determined by then-former Public Safety Director (Troy) Riggs — now Police Chief Riggs — incorporate just 8 square miles of a 400-square-mile county. What we intend to do in this 100 days is to expand four of the six focus areas so, once expanded, they would cover 13.5 square miles.

What’s the reason for expanding those areas?

Number one, if you look at the homicide statistics, the focus areas as they currently exist constitute about 30 percent of all homicides that occurred, for example, in 2015 in the city of Indianapolis. So an 8-square-mile area experiences 30 percent of the total homicides countywide. If you expand the four focus areas of the six to add the additional miles, you are starting to get close to 50 percent of the homicides.

Secondly, and as importantly, we’ll be creating the neighborhood-oriented, community-based beat jurisdiction approach to neighborhood or community policing. We will be assigning more officers into the focus areas, the purpose of which will be to have officers be able to truly reintroduce community-based policing in those areas, which means they’ll have time during the course of their shifts to get out of their cars, to walk the neighborhoods, to go up and down, introduce themselves to the people who live in those areas, introduce themselves to the merchants and the retail establishments, ask questions, find out what problems in a very immediate way the problem is experiencing … all of which I think is designed to do two things: number one, allow these officers to be in a position where they can be a little bit more proactive in terms of helping the neighborhood through the public safety challenges it happens to be experiencing, and then secondly I would hope raise the level of community trust and community familiarity and comfort.

How is that type of policing different from what currently goes on?

Currently, because IMPD is understaffed everywhere, even in the focus areas … I don’t mean to sound like I’m using basketball analogies, but there’s zone coverage, that way all 400 square miles of Marion County have a police officer who is assigned to assist. But what they really do now is nothing more than drive from call to call. And I dare say that people in most every neighborhood in Indianapolis do not know who that police officer is; when there’s a problem in their neighborhood, the patrol car drives up, they don’t know who they are. And, correspondingly, the police officers may know something about the area, but they don’t know the people there. They haven’t had time to know them.

The community-based policing, the beat-oriented policing, the goal of that is to not affect more arrests, more prosecutions, greater incarceration, although statistically, more people may be arrested, more people may be prosecuted, more people may be incarcerated. That is not the goal, though. The goal ultimately is to allow the police to become embedded in neighborhoods, to become more familiar with neighborhoods, to become more comfortable in and around those neighborhoods, and the neighborhoods be more comfortable with their police officers. So that if I am a resident, I know if I have a problem or if my neighbors have a problem, I know the three people who are going to respond to calls for help, on any shift, and they’re going to know me.

Part of the 100-day plan involves tracking down 1,400 people with outstanding felony warrants. How will that take place?

These are not warrants that had been issued for people with traffic tickets or DWIs or minor felonies or major misdemeanors. It’s not going to be police officers spending time in neighborhoods throughout the city chasing down people because they have committed some kind of minor, or even single, offense. It’s really warrants that had been issued for people who are alleged to have committed a crime of violence with a gun or a crime of violence against another person…

I can’t give you the statistical number, but I would be confident that an overwhelming proportion of these outstanding warrants have some drug nexus. This is gang-related, drug-related, trafficking, gun-related violent crime. And there happen to be 1,400 of them who have not been brought in for some kind of adjudication. Ninety-one of the 1,400 are alleged to have committed both an act of violence involving a gun and an act of violence against another person.

Probable cause exists. The prosecutor believes there is sufficient evidence for a conviction, they just have never been brought to justice. Candidly, some of them may not even be in Marion County anymore. They may have taken off and gone somewhere else. But there are many people who are walking our streets today who have outstanding warrants for their arrest.

These people have had outstanding warrants for however long, it’s not a new thing. So what’s going to be different now than the approach previously? What’s going to change to actually bring these people in?

We’re going to be working with the Sheriff’s Department and their warrant teams as well as with IMPD to try to identify where these folks are. To answer your question, they’re going to become a priority. You may ask, ‘Why now?’

You’d have to ask the previous administration that question. Or, said in a different way, that’s my question! Of course, I have to answer it, ultimately.

We’re not going to be able to successfully affect 1,400 warrants, I understand that. But if we can identify and arrest a vast majority of these people, I think we’re going to have an imminently safer community… the point is, if they are alleged to have committed these acts, they need to have their day in court, as we all have the right to.

So we’re a couple weeks into this plan now. Do you know if any of those arrests have been made?

No, in fact, the police chief (has recently named) his command staff. Truly the 100-day plan will begin to be implemented. As I said, it takes time for reassignments to be made, to adjust schedules in ways that allow us to return to community-based policing in the six focus areas. We’re probably 30 days away from adjustments being made so community policing can be reinstituted.

With the other parts of the plan — creation of the real-time crime center, the homicide response team, more officers — you’ve said no additional funds are going to be needed, that the current budget will be able to cover all this. How is that?

The chief is absolutely confident that we can add officers to these focus areas by taking sworn officers who are currently doing other administrative tasks and reassigning them. We are adding officers. There was a significant increase in the public safety income tax last year. In the interest of full disclosure, we’re also losing officers to retirement and people who are simply moving on. At least the Ballard Administration has started hiring recruit classes that will add officers. But I think what Chief Riggs is primarily focused on is how do we better assign the sworn officers currently in IMPD and perhaps pull them off of desk duty and allow more officers to be assigned to the focus areas.

The real-time crime center, while it is a critical component to the 100-day plan, the technology already exists at the Regional Operations Center. It’s not as if we’re going to have some new building with an infusion of gizmatrons that we don’t currently own. It’s really just focusing that technology on the focus areas and in real time, so officers will have better capability to know what’s going on in my beat right now.

The point is, the chief is comfortable that he’ll be able to affect the basic nature of the proposals without a significant increase in the budget.

Moving beyond the crime plan, what else is in the works? I know you’ve got a lot of new people on staff who have hit the ground running. So what else is going on?

I think it’s fair to say the Mayor’s Office is pretty well-formed. What I mean by the Mayor’s Office is the people who occupy the 25th floor (of the City-County Building). So deputy mayors, directors of mayoral initiatives, like our Office of Education Innovation, they’re up and running. Ahmed Young, who will be the director of the Office of Education Innovation, he’s fully present. We’ve named a chief of staff, Thomas Cook, and three deputy mayors, most recently Angie Smith Jones, the deputy mayor for economic development. She worked for Indy Chamber, she’s now full-time in the mayor’s office. Dr. David Hampton, deputy mayor for neighborhood engagement and outreach, is in his office fully engaged. Jeff Bennett, deputy mayor for community development, he’s fully engaged now.

Our legislative director, Camille Blunt, has left her previous employer and is now working full-time in the hallways of the General Assembly and the City-County Council. Our financial team is in place led by Kathy Davis, supported by the City Controller Fady Qaddoura and assisted by head of our Office of Audit and Performance, Hope Tribble.

What remains to be done? I have not yet named a director of public works, director of metropolitan development, director of code enforcement or a director of parks, nor have I named deputy directors for any of those positions. I hope that will occur by the end of week three.

I think the mayor’s office and the mayor’s cabinet ultimately will be a historically diverse group of individuals. We may very well end up, for the first time in our city’s history, with a majority minority cabinet. We’re close already to a majority minority mayor’s office. If we’re not a majority minority leadership team, we’ll be as close as Indianapolis has ever been.

Now that you’re in office, is anything unexpected, or is anything different than what you thought it would be?

The pace is certainly accelerated in ways that, even though you kind of think you appreciate, you don’t really until you’re in the middle of the vortex. You continue to learn new things about Indianapolis every single day, and I probably will continue to learn every day that I serve this office.

During the 15 months I campaigned for mayor, I truly began to appreciate how much I didn’t know about Indianapolis. In other words, the 35 years that I’ve lived here, I knew my Indianapolis. I’m sure you know your Indianapolis. What collectively we don’t know is so many different aspects of this city that we just do not come in contact with.

Looking ahead at the big picture, when you come to the end of your tenure as mayor and you’re looking back at what’s happened, what do you hope to see that is different and what do you hope to see that has stayed the same?

I hope what stays the same is the city’s commitment to continue to evolve in progressive and positive ways. There are enormous challenges that we still confront, but this is a fundamentally different city than the one I knew 35 years ago. The city has transformed profoundly in many, many positive ways. I hope four years from now, I can say that progress has continued.

What do I want to see changed? We may not be able to identify it in ways that are recognizable, but I want our neighborhood revitalization and rehabilitation to have begun, so we can look at neighborhoods like the one where the Recorder offices are located. You’re not going to be able to wave a magic wand and transform a neighborhood overnight. In four years, will I be able to discernibly and recognizably say, ‘We’ve transformed Martindale-Brightwood, or Haughville, or Bates-Hendricks or Holy Cross’? Probably not. But I hope that you’ll be able to see the beginnings of neighborhood revitalization, not only in affordable housing, but in retail, in development. I hope we’ll have a vibrant parks system that will be vital to improving quality of life. And I hope all of the things that go to neighborhood development will have begun so the mayor who follows me will be able to continue. Downtown is beautiful, and we need to continue to preserve its vibrancy. But I think the next four years will be about how we can leverage the amenities that we enjoy downtown to the benefit of those neighborhoods that all-too-often in the past have either been overlooked or completely ignored.

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