Media on board: police shortage in Indy

Dateline: Wed 30 May 2007

The Indianapolis Star and Channel 13 are both reporting, finally, on the story the rest of us have talked up: the shortage of police officers in Indianapolis -- 120 fewer officers are on the mean streets than should be.

The cause? Officers are bailing to take jobs in counties or areas where respect is measured out in pay, benefits and the backing of the administration; other Vietnam-era police are simply taking early retirement.

The result? Slow runs, frustrated police and citzens, and the inevitable: more crime, both petty and major.

All of which brings us to the inevitable. As the Star's editorial points out, this situation did not happen overnight, and yes, the county's revolving-door criminal justice system is part of the problem. But so is Mayor Bart Peterson's refusal for too long to negotiate a new police contract over the past few years. Then came the poorly executed police merger, which leaves the city with a police force where the mayor is not in charge and not responsible. Hiss, boo.

Crime is nothing new in Indy or in any big city. I recall living in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood in the early 1980s when a man cleaning his windows and watching a Sunday football game in the 5700 block of Washington was killed by teens wielding a sawed-off shotgun. I also recall neighbors, friends and acquaintances being assaulted -- hit over the head with a brick or a baseball bat during robbery attacks on the Northside. But never before have the numbers been so deep and so wide, or, I would wager, the police so confounded by frustration in their efforts to do their job.

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