Vote gives Indy Works new life

Paul F. P. Pogue

After an unexpected switch in votes in just the last few weeks, the City-County Council breathed new life into Mayor Bart Peterson's Indianapolis Works program by approving, in a 16-13 vote, the merger of Police and Sheriff's departments into one Metropolitan Police Department under the leadership of Sheriff Frank Anderson.

The public safety merger has long been one of the most controversial aspects of Indy Works, as an overwhelming majority of the Fraternal Order of Police, made up of both police and sheriff's deputies, voted against it. And indeed, Vince Huber, local FOP president, made it clear that they were not happy, particularly with council members Scott Keller and Lance Langsford, whose last-minute switches made the vote possible.

"We were sold out by Councilors Keller and Langsford," Huber said. "They sold out their constituents and they sold out the law enforcement professionals of Indianapolis and Marion County. The councilors just simply didn't listen to their constituents, and they're going to suffer. We're going to work with neighborhoods to get those councilors out of office."

The vote ends, for the moment, months of speculation and uncertainty about the possibility of police layoffs and budget cutbacks, though exact details of the merger remain to be settled.

Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell said that the transition of authority and the advisory board would be getting to work immediately to begin the merger, which is expected to be complete by January 2007. It further gives heft to the mayor's campaign to bring the rest of Indianapolis Works back in front of the state Legislature when the 2006 session begins.

"It's by no means a slam dunk, but it certainly gives us momentum," Campbell said. "What happened here is that there was bipartisan cooperation. Up until tonight we never saw a single Republican vote for consolidation. We need to see more of this in the General Assembly if this is going to pass during this session. We think the big winners are the people of Indianapolis and Marion County. They're going to be receiving better and more efficient public service."

The vote brings to a close a tumultuous chapter in the council's history, but council President Steve Talley said that the future will address equally difficult questions, such as juvenile detention and welfare debt.

"You're going to see a very active council next year," Talley said.

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