The police and the administration: time to talk

Dateline: Sat 03 Mar 2007

Leadership in the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police wants to move forward. Translation: FOP prez Aaron Sullivan and his band of brothers are determined to put behind them past grievances with Mayor Bart Peterson and his administration and start working together on behalf of the entire city.

To that end, the FOP has formed a public relations committee and hired a PR guru to help carve out this new territory. Over the next few weeks, they'll be calling various key people in the Demoratic administration and the city, as well as editors and writers at the Indianapolis Star and other media outlets. In short, they want to hash things out.

They also want the mayor to know they have his back: they are considering lending their support to some of his initiatives, possibly Home Town Matters, in the Legislature. They want to send a message that the city and the police should come together when it comes to public safety.

Their immediate goal is one that everyone should get behind: a contract for the former officers of the Indianapolis Police Department, including the 1,600 members of the FOP. But even more important is what that contract symbolizes: a boost in morale for police, who are dealing daily with increasing crime. Last year Indy had 153 homicides, making it the second-worst year in the city's history. Nobody wants a repeat of that.

FOP spokesman and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Detective Kevin Lauerman explains the FOP leadership's position: "We have merged (the Marion County Sheriff's Department and the Indianapolis Police Department.) Now it's time to go ahead. We need a contract. We are losing too many officers to other police departments where they will have benefits. We had 20 homicides by February. I don't ever remember that number being so high by that month."

This is all vitally important, because Indy is unraveling. TV reports last night dealt with gang graffiti on celebrated Mass Ave; today's Star has a Page One story about homeless men and women being assaulted and beaten. Add that to the recent abduction and rape of a young woman at a parking garage Downtown, and a body found in Williams Creek on the Northside, and you have a city that is on the brink.

RiShawn Biddle addressed the issue in yesterday's Expresso in the Star. IndyUndercover praised his words, which were in part inspired by the fact that the Star itself was vandalized last week -- a huge Colts banner on the building was set afire.

Biddle's words bear repeating here:

"The torching of it (the banner) simply proves once again that the city's longstanding neglect of public safety and quality of life issues, some of which has taken place under the current mayor along with his predecessors, no longer affects those folks on 38th and Emerson and is no longer limited to panhandling. And despite the protests of some officials and their allies, it's apparent to all in this Circle City."

What is also apparent is that it's time for police and mayor to make amends. It's time to put away the chicken suits and the posturing, and reclaim the lost ground.

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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