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Sunday, May 16, 2021

If public safety¹s Œjob one,¹ why isn¹t Indy excited over 50 more street cops

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It¹s not as popular as Cash for Clunkers, but for counties, cities and towns

in the United States, last week¹s announcement that the federal stimulus was

spending $1 billion to put 4,700 more police on the streets was welcome


The municipalities that got the money to hire, or in Muncie¹s case rehire

laid off cops, were thankful.

Even cities like Los Angeles who were dissatisfied that they couldn¹t hire

hundreds of new LAPD officers were nonetheless excited.

I wish I could say that Indianapolis officials were as excited as their

counterparts across the nation.

Indianapolis was one of 22 of the country¹s largest cities and counties to

receive the maximum of 50 new police under the Federal COPS (Community

Oriented Policing Services) Program. The over $11 million grant covers the

cost of police officers for three years, with the localities agreeing to pay

their fourth year.

Congressman Andre Carson, who helped push for Indianapolis to receive the

maximum COPS allocation was ecstatic, ³We cannot let our commitment to

public safety slip during this economic downturn. This COPS grant will

provide Indianapolis with the resources it needs to add police to our


But members of Mayor Greg Ballard¹s Brood were downright under-whelmed.

Deputy (now Acting) Public Safety Director Mark Renner wasn¹t doing

handsprings when I interviewed him live on WTLC-AM¹s ³Afternoons with Amos²

five hours after Indy got the news of the grant. Renner explained that

though the Feds will pay the entire cost of salary and benefits for these 50

new police for three years, Indianapolis must pay the cost to equip them.

That includes police cars, guns, handcuffs, mace, bullets, etc.

³We have to evaluate the cost of equipping these officials,² Renner

surprisingly said. ³That cost and our own budget constraints will determine

how many of these officers we can actually hire.²

Unlike other cities that issued happy press releases trumpeting their

receipt of the stimulus COPS funding, Indianapolis said nothing. My

interview with Renner was the city¹s only public discussion of the issue.

Later that same afternoon, the city issued a cautious statement from Renner

that said in part, ³It is important that we utilize these funds wisely, all

while working to make financial decisions based on the long term welfare of

the city. The budget process will determine what our force strength will be,

and once we allow that process to work, we will be able to address how this

grant will be best put to use.²

The 2010 budget that Ballard unveils Monday is expected to be austere. Tax

revenues should be lower and you can expect millions in budget cuts and

reduced services.

Given what I believe to be the city¹s budget restraints, and hearing Renner

and the Ballard Administrations complaining about the estimated $1 million

cost to equip these 50 new officers, I have to ask why did the city apply

for the COPS stimulus money in the first place?

Mayor Ballard and IMPD Chief Michael Spears signed off the city¹s final

grant proposal on April 14. The grant application, posted on the


"http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/">www.cops.usdoj.gov Web site clearly documents how much the new officers

would cost. So, if the city computed the cost of the new police in their

grant application, one would assume the city computed the cost of equipping

those officers over three years? And why weren¹t those numbers plugged into

their 2010 budget spreadsheets?

The Ballard Administration¹s standoffishness towards the COPS grant is

puzzling. When Ballard took office he repeatedly said that public safety was

³job one.² Ballard also inherited the millions in new public safety dollars

from former Mayor Bart Peterson¹s controversial income tax hike.

But in what will be seen by history as a mistake, the mayor gave back some

of that public safety tax money to taxpayers. That occurred just a few

months before the Great Recession impacted city budgets nationwide.

It¹s good to give tax money back when times are good, but when you¹re facing

budget shortfalls and whining that you can¹t equip more cops at a time when

neighborhood crimes are up, Ballard¹s decision to give back public safety

money will be seen as penny wise and pound foolish.

What I¹m Hearing

in the Streets

In these tough economic times many companies, for-profits and non-profits,

are restructuring. Let me be clear, restructuring to make an operation

better and more efficient can be good. But, an unfortunate consequence has

been the involuntary departure of employees with considerable institutional

knowledge and expertise.

Black institutions have been caught up in the Great Recession¹s

restructuring, including venerable institutions like the national NAACP and

Ebony & Jet Magazines.

And locally Indiana Black Expo.

IBE¹s recent restructuring affected Marsha Bennett, General Manager of

Special Events, who for some 26 years worked with Expo¹s sponsors from

corporations to grass roots exhibitors.

For much of that quarter century, Bennett was Rev. Charles Williams¹ right

hand, helping build Expo into national prominence. Her sudden departure

leaves a major void, decimates Expo¹s institutional knowledge and will cause

concern among sponsors, volunteers and community folks.

As they restructure, IBE¹s leadership must be careful not to strip the

organization of its soul. It must not lose its knowledge and understanding

of Indiana Black Expo¹s history and mission. It must not lose its

understanding of the peculiarities and nuances of IBE¹s core constituency -

African-American Hoosiers!

This week marks the 15th Anniversary of this column in your Indianapolis

Recorder. On this milestone, a huge thank you to Recorder Owner Bill Mays

for providing me the opportunity to serve and enlighten in this space.

Also thanks to Editor Shannon Williams and the editing staff for making my

prose good every week.

But the biggest thank you goes to Recorder Publisher and President Carolene

Mays. Her bold, energetic leadership is enabling this newspaper to survive

and thrive while others are becoming an endangered species.

Under Carolene¹s stewardship, the Recorder, both in print and on the new


"../../../">www.indianapolisrecorder.com Web site, is becoming a must read with

provocative and thought provoking articles and features.

Again thanks to Bill, Carolene, Shannon and most importantly to all of you

for your support.

See Œya next week as ³Just Tellin¹ It² begins its Sweet 16th Year!

Amos Brown¹s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder

Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915.

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