By last count, Indianapolis had 1,580 members of its police department. The general consensus is that number is too small. According an efficiency report released by the Department of Public Safety, the minimum national average for police officers to population is 2.5 per 1,000 people. To reach this ratio, IMPD - which now has 1.7 officers per 1,000 people - would need to hire 685 new officers.
The Fraternal Order of Police has been calling for more officers and has offered a proposal that would add 100 new officers annually between 2014-2018. Council Democrats have not offered a long-term funding solution to add more officers. While they did approve expanding the old police taxing district to the entire county, they took $8 million from the Rebuild Indy fund to pay for a new recruit class.
I was looking at some old reports (old as in 2005) regarding the merger between the old Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) and the Marion County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) and found that at the time the city had 1,522 officers: IPD had 1,114 officers and MCSD had 408, for a combined 1,522. Today that number is 1,580.
At the time, the ratio of officers was 2 officers per 1,000 residents. With population growth, that number, as stated earlier, has dropped to 1.7 per 1,000. So on the surface, it looks like we need more officers, but here is the other part of that equation: In 2006, we topped more than 150 murders. As of the week ending September 21, IMPD reported that we were at 84. Also, for the last three years we've kept the murder rate under 100: 96 in 2012, 94 in 2011 and 93 in 2010.
And if you take a close look at our crime stats, year to date, you will see that with the exception of our criminal homicides, violent crime in Indianapolis has been trending downward when compared to last year. Aggravated assaults are down 19 percent and residential burglary is down nearly 14 percent. Robberies have stayed flat and so have vehicle thefts.
I am not saying IMPD could not use more officers. I am for anything that gives relief and added security to the men and women who risk their lives for us everyday. It just must be done in a responsible and sustainable way. I think Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has offered a responsible plan that can put up to 150 new officers on the streets and pay for them long term. To say we do not have enough officers might be true, but that does not mean we should add more with no real, sustainable way to pay for them over the long term.
As we debate public safety in Indianapolis, one of the big questions that I am not sure we have fully vetted is: How many officers does the Circle City actually need? Different people use different numbers and different formulas.