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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


news.


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


streets.²


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


href=

"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


href=

"../../../">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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