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
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.govWeb 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 -
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.comWeb 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.