INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis police union announced Monday that "hundreds upon hundreds" of its members voted that they have no confidence in the elected prosecutor and the justice system they are sworn to uphold.
About 99% of officers who voted in the Fraternal Order of Police referendum said they have no confidence in Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears.
About 97 percent voted no confidence in the entire court system.
"I can assure our membership has not taken this lightly," FOP President Rick Snyder said Monday during a news conference at the police union headquarters on the south side. "I have never seen our Marion County justice process in the shambles that it's in right now."
Snyder would not divulge how many officers cast ballots, but said it was in the "hundreds upon hundreds."
The confidence vote is the strongest public statement the police union can make short of more aggressive work action such as picketing.
The timing of the vote is important, coming just three months before Mears, a Democrat, stands for reelection on Nov. 8. The local FOP has endorsed Mears' GOP opponent, Cyndi Carrasco.
A spokesman for Mears declined to comment Monday.
Snyder has been critical of what he sees as a "revolving-door" justice system that he says often lets defendants out of jail soon after they get arrested.
“If your police officers don’t have confidence in the justice system, why should you?” Snyder said
Snyder said the vote was precipitated by police officers outraged over the case of Carl Roy Webb Boards II, 42, the man accused of gunning down Elwood Officer Noah Shahnavaz on July 31.
In 2006, Boards, then 26, was charged with attempted murder and other crimes after he shot at officers during a police chase in Indianapolis. Boards served a 25-year prison sentence in the case.
Snyder has criticized the judge for failing to issue a maximum sentence and criticized the entire justice system for failing to find a way to keep Boards in prison for more time.
The Indianapolis Bar Association recently defended the court system and said the sentence Boards received was not lenient. The association said Snyder's comments were "inaccurate," "dangerous" and "reckless."
"Mr. Snyder’s attempt to draw a line between Officer Shahnavaz’s tragic death and the defendant’s Marion County conviction is not only inaccurate, it is dangerous," the association said in a three-page statement issued on Aug. 12.
"It would lead an uninformed person to conclude that the court in this matter somehow exhibited leniency that resulted in the death of a law enforcement officer. Our community does not benefit from such reckless rhetoric."
The Marion Superior Court executive committee on Monday said judges get 160,000 new cases per year. Each case is weighed on its own merit.
“Attacking the judiciary as lenient is counterintuitive,” the committee said in a statement emailed to WRTV.
“As judges, we live in Marion County… we are part of the community and part of the team working to pursue access to justice for all while maintaining safety and security. We welcome feedback on how to improve the system. It is our life‘s work.”
WRTV has also reached out to the bar association for comment on Monday's FOP vote.
More: Everything we know about fallen Officer Noah Shahnavaz | What we know about the man accused of killing Elwood Officer Noah Shahnavaz | Elwood police officer shot, killed; suspect in custody | Suspect in Elwood police officer's death has several prior criminal convictions, records show | Suspect in Elwood cop's shooting fired 36 rounds; officer never unholstered gun, court doc says | Confidence vote highlights growing rift between police, justice system in Marion County
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.