The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper had a brief meeting this week with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Rick Hite to garner his thoughts on city crime trends and the IMPD. Recently, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs stated there were 135 homicides for 2014. On Jan. 3, a brawl at Castleton Square Mall involving approximately 200 teens made local news. Meanwhile, the role of social media and smart phones remains a hot topic. Here’s the first installment of our interview.
Where will crime go in the next 12 months? Are you optimistic?
Last quarter, there was a reduction in every category except homicide. We call these homicides lifestyle-related. We say that, because we know many of the victims and suspects know each other. They have something in common. They have a violent criminal history. The question becomes, looking at the environment for the young people in the city.
What happened with the “brawl at the mall?”
This past winter break, we had some issues. The media sensationalized it, tried to call it a flash-mob type thing. That had nothing to do with it. It was good old-fashioned boyfriend-girlfriend stuff. Fighting over a girl.
What are some of the achievements you’re proud of?
We’ve revamped the training, made it more robust. There were concerns about promotional practices and hiring, that the department was not reflective of the community that it served. We want to make sure that we address that. In terms of hiring, we want to make sure that our practices are reflective of the city.
At the same time, we want to make sure that we address the issue of conflict within the community. Let’s face it, there are times that the community and police do not agree. We wanted to start having dialogues. Cross-training with ministers, educators, clergy, we met on a regular basis with them.
We’ve done the work, and we’re laying the groundwork for collaboration. We’re dealing with social issues that are lingering for decades. Without partnership, we can only treat the symptoms. I think the policy of having an open door policy when people come into the academy, is putting chips in the bag of trust.
What is different about IMPD’s culture?
Indianapolis is blessed to have the Re-Entry Program, and the Homeless Unit. You don’t find that in every department. It says we have a civic and moral responsibility to the community in which we live. And it’s important that most of our police officers live in Marion County. They live in the confines of the city. It says that we care. But looking at it holistically, when you talk about homelessness, re-entry, that’s huge. Because it says not only do we identify people who are in need of services, we want to be active participants with our stakeholders, our partners.
IMPD is getting more officers, correct?
We’ve remanded 120 officers back to patrol duties, which is the primary role of all officers. What’s unique is we’re not just looking in the short term, but the long-term plan. We’re also looking at the growth of the city. The short term is 115 new officers. That’s the plan that came about from the staffing committee of the office of the City Council, the mayor, public safety have the discussion. But the larger discussion is a three to five year plan for the city.
As we look at long-term growth, we must have a forum where the public safety director, police chief, fire chief, etc. at the table to discuss what the needs are for the growing city.
What’s your take on the role of social media?
Social media is being viewed as the be-all, end-all for young people. They believe, ‘my life is ended, my career is ended, if I’m maligned on social media. Should you say something horrifying about me on Facebook, I’m no longer worthy to live on this earth. ‘Well, we have to have real conversations, not just texts and tweets. Communicating verbally face to face is becoming a lost art. They need to put the smart phone down.
Are there some good aspects to social media? Smart phones?
We can use social media to train parents about gang activity, share information. We have conversations frequently over Twitter, Facebook, and Nixle. Anyone can opt in. Community groups want to hear directly from us. Sometimes, they’re getting the wrong message from the media. They want to hear the truth, and we want to get the message out directly to the people.
The technology allows people to remain anonymous. It’s a smartphone. Use the technology. Send us a picture, a recording, anything you can find that would be beneficial to us. Send it to us. Email it to us. Text it to us. Remain anonymous. This helps us also combat long-term problems in the community.
Those interested should visit: local.nixle.com/indianapolis-metropolitan-police-department/ The department tweets at: @IMPD_News and is on Facebook at: facebook.com/IMPDNews For information about Crimestoppers, visit: crimetips.org.
Next week, the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper will have exclusive details about the IMPD’s revamped gang unit.