Wednesday, September 26, 2012

There's a New Public Safety Director in Town

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge abdul-hakim_shabazz.jpg

I only spent about 40 minutes with the new Public Safety Director designee, but based on our brief interaction, I already like the guy.

Now don't get me wrong, I like former Director Frank Straub and had a really good relationship with him. I think he was spot on when he said the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was due for some badly needed reforms. And I disagree with the accusation that he was trying to micromanage the department. I would argue if people weren't allegedly driving drunk and killing people, he would not have had to step in so frequently. With that said, I think the city will like the new guy, Troy Riggs.

Riggs is not only a former officer; he was in command during the police merger in Louisville, Ky., between that city's police department and Jefferson County law enforcement.

In addition, his work as police chief and assistant city manager in Corpus Christi, Texas, gives a ton of managerial, budgetary and law enforcement experience. An editorial this past week in the Corpus Christi Caller said he leaves a police department and city in better shape than when he found it and better shape than when he arrived.

The editorial attributed a number of successes to Riggs during his tenure: a lower crime rate, more transparency when it came to reporting crime data and how he, as assistant city manager, led an effort to revitalize and restore Corpus Christi's most neglected neighborhoods.

During his news conference I asked him how he would approach the budget shortfall that public safety faces. He mentioned two ideas from past jobs that I thought were innovative. First, he talked about the creation of a public safety foundation, which helped raise money for department equipment.

He also told me that in past jobs they looked at how they were spending money from drug forfeitures and how that could be better used to cover law enforcement expenses. But perhaps what impressed me the most is that he noted how back in 2008, when the national economy was starting to take a nose dive, he immediately started looking at how the department he worked in could prepare to deal with the downfall once it hit them at the local level. That, to me, showed a lot of forethought which is what Indianapolis needs. Too often we have spent time addressing crisis after crisis and offering Band-Aid solutions without ever really looking long-term as to how these problems were going to be addressed. Luckily both Straub and now Riggs possess the ability to look long-term; Straub when it came to training and reform, Riggs, if I am reading him correctly, when it comes to finances.

The other good thing about Riggs is that he is from the Midwest, so his demeanor will fit in better than Straub's. As a Chicago boy, I was not at all bothered by Straub's rough exterior. In fact, I found it somewhat refreshing. Indianapolis, however, will probably work a little better with someone who is from 90 miles away, rather than 700 miles.

Regardless, reforms must continue and the city needs a visionary for public safety. I think in Riggs we have found both.

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