INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis police union's vote of no confidence in the justice system and the prosecutor is a demand that the people in power here must work to address the danger and violence law enforcement officers are seeing on the streets.
A political science professor said there is another message in the subtext of that symbolic union vote — and that message was all about the Nov. 8 election.
"I think it is definitely trying to draw attention to the concerns of the union and their officers," said Greg Shufeldt, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis.
"They're trying to get a national platform. They're trying to get local attention. And many elections, especially not at the top of the ticket, get less attention. So they're trying to direct voters attention to this topic."
Rick Snyder, president of the Indianapolis branch of the Fraternal Order of Police, has done just that. Days after the FOP announced its referendum results Snyder appeared on Fox News and told a national audience "safety equals Cyndi" — a plug for GOP prosecutor candidate Cyndi Carrasco.
Carrasco, a political newcomer who previously served as the state's inspector general, is working to unseat the incumbent, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears.
Mears was appointed to the post in October 2019 after former Prosecutor Terry Curry resigned as he battled prostate cancer. Curry died last year.
In his tenure, Mears has drawn sharp criticism from the police union president for announcing his office would no longer prosecute people for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
Snyder said hundreds of police officers voted in their poll and 99% said they had no confidence in the Marion County prosecutor, and 97% had no confidence in the entire county justice system.
Snyder says the FOP vote was never about politics. He said the officers he represents are trying to "communicate with the public" their frustration with the current prosecutor.
"It's also no secret that we've had our share of disconnect with this prosecutor," Snyder said in an Aug. 22 press conference. "This is a prosecutor has made abundantly clear publicly that he does not view law enforcement as a partner in what he does."
Mears' campaign spokesman declined to comment on the FOP's vote or on political factors that might be driving the issue.
But in a fundraising email, the Mears campaign attacked Snyder and called his Fox appearance a "publicity stunt."
"Let's be clear, we cannot afford to have someone like Rick Snyder run the prosecutor's office or the courts," Mears' campaign said in the email. "His approach of putting everyone in jail and throwing away the key has failed time and time again."
In an emailed statement, Carrasco said the overwhelming vote by the FOP expressed frustration and growing tensions between law enforcement officers and Mears.
"Simply put, our men and women in law enforcement do not trust Ryan Mears to do his job, hold criminals accountable and keep our communities safe," Carrasco said. "Nothing about this vote was political, and it shouldn’t be seen as such."
Shufeldt said it is pretty clear this FOP vote is aimed at drawing attention to a race that many might overlook, even if they say it's not about politics.
"Most voters don't pay attention to races at the bottom of the ticket. And increasingly as our parties get more polarized, races in Marion County are increasingly getting less competitive," Shufeldt said.
"If this is a race that can be identified as perhaps more competitive, you want to try to draw people's attention to it right now early in the campaign cycle."
While the FOP represents local police officers, Keith "Wildstyle" Paschall said it doesn't speak for all Marion County residents.
Paschall, a community activist, photographer and music producer who lives on Indianapolis' west side, asked his Twitter followers if they were "confident that Rick Snyder and the Fraternal Order of Police are looking out for the best interest of Indy residents."
More than 330 voted in Paschall's poll; 93% said they had no confidence in Snyder and the FOP.
More: Confidence vote highlights growing rift between police, justice system in Marion County | Indianapolis police union overwhelmingly votes no confidence vote in Marion County justice system, prosecutor
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.