Indianapolis mayoral candidates discuss IMPD staffing levels

IMPD officer injured in crash
Posted at 12:07 PM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-29 12:07:20-04

RTV6 is profiling five top issues on voters’ minds when they go to cast a ballot for Indianapolis mayor on Nov. 5. We spoke to all three Indianapolis mayoral candidates about their plans and promises for the city over the next four years.
Monday: Homicides in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS — With Indianapolis’ crime spike over the last decade, the mayoral candidates have debated for months about what the appropriate number of police officers should be for the city.

Mayor Joe Hogsett has pushed the growth of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in recent ads. IMPD has increased IMPD’s staffing by 150 net officers since he first made the promise in 2015. The important word to note is “Net.”

“The truth is, in the last four years, we've probably hired in excess of 300 police officers,” Hogsett said. “But we also have an older police force, so when they retire or other forms of attrition come into play, that's why we talk about increasing IMPD by a net number of 150 additional officers.”

Hogsett’s 2020 Indianapolis budget, which passed the City-County Council by a vote of 22-2, accounts for 1,743 officers. Hogsett said those who study cities say that’s an appropriate number for a city of Indianapolis’ size.

Hogsett’s Republican opponent, Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, has called for the city to hire an additional 150 officers each year, until staffing reaches “desired levels.” Merritt has said he doesn’t have a specific target number in mind for the number of officers at IMPD.

Merritt said his goal is better recruiting, training and equipment for the officers.

“We have to stop the idea that people don’t want to be a police officer in Indianapolis,” Merritt said. “The mayor of Indianapolis has to have the back of not only the chief, as well as the person on the line – the police officer.”

The Libertarian candidate, Douglas McNaughton, said he feels the staffing level at IMPD is largely appropriate, if a little low. But if you ask the officers, he said, they may say they’re understaffed.

“Whether they're understaffed because they don't have enough people or if they're understaffed because city policies causing things like the homicide rate to go up, all those things need to be addressed,” he said. “Perhaps there’s something the city can do with youth outreach and reduction of prosecution of victimless crimes that will ease the burden on these police officers.”

McNaughton said he will ask departing officers, “What does the city need to do to make IMPD the department of choice?”