Today, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced that Bryan Roach, a 26-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, will take the helm of chief.
Roach’s detailed tenure with IMPD includes a wealth of service experience. He has held each rank, both merit and appointed, within the department. His most recent assignment was as assistant chief of administration, and for the past several months he has been intimately involved with the mayor’s Criminal Justice Reform Task Force.
“Last month when first learning of this impending vacancy, we knew a thorough search would be necessary to find a leader that was ready to take on the challenges that we face in our city,” said the mayor. “While there are many bright, thoughtful leaders within IMPD … one is best equipped to face those challenges.”
Last year, Roach received the Jake Laird Local Public Safety Hero Award, and in 2015, he was recognized by the Indiana Public Health Foundation with the Tony and Mary Hulman Health Achievement Award for his contributions in creating the state’s first law enforcement program targeted at assisting victims of opioid overdose. Roach is also a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy.
“I appreciate the opportunity throughout my career to rub shoulders with many department chiefs and command staff. I feel that I have been prepared by them and others in my life for this, what I believe to be, a calling,” said Roach. “I feel confident in my abilities.”
Roach’s appointment comes after the December 2016 resignation of Troy Riggs, who served in the role for less than a year after leaving a position at IUPUI as director of public safety outreach. Roach shared with the media that he has promised Hogsett’s office he will stay in the role for at least the next three years. Valerie Cunningham, who has been with IMPD for 24 years, served as interim chief for a very brief period of 11 days. Had she been appointed, it would have marked the first time a woman had served in this role in the history of the department.
Cunningham said that while she decided not to pursue the role herself, she campaigned heavily on behalf of Roach. “I chose to spend my energy promoting this individual who I firmly believe in and who I will work in concert with. We have a wonderful working relationship, and I think this is a phenomenal choice and a great opportunity for this agency to keep us on track,” she said. “Internally we know the merits of Chief Roach. Externally, the Haughville community knows him from when he was a commander, but the other communities are going to get to know him. I can tell you, this was my choice for a chief. I am extremely pleased.”
Cunningham added that her individual position will change at some point, but she will remain in a prominent role within the department.
Diversity has been a recurring conversation surrounding the department in recent weeks. Late last week, City Councilor Stephen J. Clay spoke out against IMPD’s recent interdepartmental promotions. Of the 23 officers promoted to the rank of sergeant and the five sergeants promoted to the rank of lieutenant, one was a Black male and another a woman of Latin descent.
In a written statement, Clay said, “The current promotion list is yet another example, in the photo album of this department, that seems to indicate a commitment to preserving the status quo of lily-white officers.”
Though there was no formal plan laid out in Wednesday’s press conference about how to address the issue, Roach mentioned that diversity would be a focus of his. Another would be transparency within the department.
Dr. David A. Hampton, deputy mayor of neighborhoods, said the announcement marks the dawn of “a new day.”
“I think that the mayor’s choice was very positive in that it sent a message of confidence within our ranks,” said Hampton. “It was very optimistic that Chief Roach met, prior to the press conference, with a number of clergy and answered some very tough questions.” One of the tough questions had to do with transparency. Hampton shared that participants in the informal gathering felt that if the department expects the community to divulge more information to them about crime, then the community would like the same courtesy when officers are reprimanded internally for misconduct.
According to the deputy mayor, the group was pleased with Roach’s answers and his willingness to work with the community.
When asked about how he plans to lead, Roach pointed to a three-tiered policing philosophy focused on protecting and serving the community, exploring simple solutions in complex situations and a passion for establishing a high level of trust with the public, deeming the latter most important.
“There are hundreds of thousands of opportunities each year for individual officers to interact with individual citizens. Our officers in those situations must treat people as people, no matter the circumstances,” he said. “It’s every interaction that our officers have the community, no matter the situation, that builds that trust and understanding and gives the community a view of what the department is.”
Though the appointment became effective immediately with the announcement on Jan. 11, a formal swearing-in ceremony will be held in the coming weeks.