Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Public Pays While Sheriff Frank Anderson Plays

A few months ago, a big stink was made about the fact that Mayor Ballard's Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department parked a police car in the golf course parking lot of a political supporter of the Mayor. The political supporter wanted the presence of the car (which was out of service) at his business to deter crime at the facility.

The Mayor, IMPD Michael Spears, and acting public safety director, Mark Renner were rightfully criticized for this misuse of public property. However, the improper use of an IMPD car is peanuts compared to fiasco going on in the Sheriff's Department.

This evening, on my way in to my gym I saw in the parking lot a Marion County Sheriff's Department car, a brand new Crown Victoria. It was outfitted with all the bells and of an ordinary police car. It even had a dash-mounted laptop computer. It was a beautiful vehicle.

Of course, police duties in Indianapolis are now handled by IMPD and not the Marion County Sheriff. I'm not sure why Sheriff's Deputies have to take home these publicly-owned vehicles. Or perhaps the officer was simply transporting a prisoner to the gym for a little exercise.

I am sure the Sheriff would respond that the Crown Vics were purchased with jail commissary money and not taxpayer money. While the law does authorize the Sheriff to use jail commissary money for the purchase of vehicles, many would argue that the statute requires that those vehicles be actually related to the transport of inmates. Instead the Sheriff dips into the commissary to buy Crown Vics and motorcycles which the deputies then use to take home. The Sheriff touts the "savings" of the motorcycles...as if the Sheriff Deputies are transporting inmates or serving legal documents using motorcycles.

Regardless of whether the purchase was legal or appropriate, it is still taxpayers ultimately footing the bill to fill up the gas tanks and to maintain the vehicles of the Sheriff's Department. It is a shame that the Council continues to let the Sheriff play an expensive game of pretend cop long after his powers have been taken away.

As I left the gym tonight, I saw the Marion County Sheriff's Department car was gone. Just a short distance away, I noticed an older, plain looking police car. I walked over to take a closer look at it. It was an IMPD vehicle. It did not have have the dash-mounted laptop or other bells and whistles of the Sheriff's car. Go figure. The ones who don't need first-rate equipment get it, while the ones doing the police work have to settle for second-rate equipment.

11 comments:

Baloo said...

Paul,
I've wondered why since the creation of IMPD the Sheriff Department decided to mark their vehicles with a fancy design. If you recall when IMPD was formed there were reports of the decal package of the original IMPD cars costing upwards of 350 dollars per car. IMPD switched to the new design and it was reported to cost approx 45 dollars per car. However the Sheriff Department did away with just the pain Sheriff Star with Marion County above it, and went with a fancy design. I'm sure it is upwards of 350 dollars per car.
Rumors floating around which it wouldn't surprise me if it is true is that the Dodge Chargers where done under the bid process, and that the Controllers Office had no clue about the purchase until a bill was submitted to be paid for them. Also rumors which I again wouldn't surprise me if true is that the Sheriff Department was taken lightbars bought to outfit IMPD cars, and used them to outfit the Sheriff Department vehicles. Price out a LED Lightbar sometime, upward of 2000 dollars. Now ask yourself since the Sheriff Department is not only responsible for Jail, Court, and Civil duties why do they need lights, or lightbars on their fleet? Makes you wonder how much money just in vehicles and the equipment in those vehicles are costing tax payers, and also if tax payer funds are not being used to pay for the vehicles and equipment on those vehicles how the Sheriff can legally justify using commissary funds.

Baloo said...

Corrections, the rumor is the Chargers were not bought through the bid process.

Downtown Indy said...

I have seen, on more than one occasion, one of the white MCSD 'paddy wagon' vans parked in a movie theatre lot.

One time, I saw the drive and two male occupants arrive, both in shorts and t-shirts, and go inside to watch a movie.

Now tell me, are these ALSO 'take home' vehicles? That really makes no sense

Paul K. Ogden said...

Baloo,

I've been told that the fancy decals emblazoned on the Sheriff's cars were paid for using commissary money. I have also been told that an approved vendor was not used and the job was not subject to the bidding process.

Downtown Indy said...

To correct a typing error in my other post, I saw the VAN drive in with two male occupants (not 3 as it may have sounded).

Southsider said...

From reading previous postings here and on other sites I'm thinking that the Sheriff's Dept. with motorcycles, patrol cars outfitted etc....is gearing up to becoming once again a Law Enforcement Agency........

Paul K. Ogden said...

Southsider, you are absolutely correct. I think the Sheriff believes he's going to regain law enforcement powers.

Baloo said...

Paul,
I have witnessed Marion County Sheriff Special Deputies, since the Sheriff Department no longer has Merit Deputies since the Merger, make traffic stops.

Why would the Sheriff Department need a Motorcycle unit unless the Sheriff is scamming money from Tax Payers to make money doing escorts?

The person in charge of the vehicles for the Sheriff Department is the one and only Hank Bowsworth. The same person who has numerous full time jobs within Marion county.

Whaddayamean Dean said...

Are you aware (most local citizens are not) that the Sheriff of Marion County still has certain duties and functions to perform that involve street duty. After the merger some of these duties are by law and some are by agreement with the city. For example, "Paddy" Wagon supervisors have fully marked new patrol cars to monitor their deputies in the field. Also they have prisoner "shields" installed so they can pick up prisoners as well. The MCSD also has a Sexual Offender Unit, which monitors sexual predators and obtains warrants for those offenders who are in violation of their conditions of release into the community. The Sheriff also has a warrant unit on street duty. None of this is new and has been in place since the merger. The fully marked MCSD vehicle seen in the gym lot was most likley from the Sexual Offender Unit. They use the laptop to monitor sexual offenders. Please Mr. Ogden, a little bit of research would have given you the reasons for some marked MCSD units to still be on the roads of Marion County.

The Professor said...

Whaddayamean Dean,

You are correct to a point. But the issue is why buy what they have purchased? Sex offender checks can be done in non-police vehicles, and still be compliant. The Toyota's that IMPD bought would be good for checks, and save more money than a 9 mpg CVI, or a Charger for that matter. The Chargers bring up a whole other matter in regards to repair costs as well, because they now force the city garage to stock parts for yet a totally new fleet of vehicles, therefore diluting the mass purchase power that would have been possible buying parts for only two or three different models of cars.

As for the traffic stops..... I think some of these people should start complaining. If you drive in northern Indiana you will see that the road patrol function of most Sheriff Department there are "County Police". Cloudy IC code in addition to the merger in Marion County pretty much spells out that a Sheriff's Department having any road authority is rather questionable.

Some would probably agree with me, it would be nice if this Sheriff would focus on what he is suppose to be focusing on; the courts, the jail, warrants, and the sex offender registry.

Baloo said...

Whaddayamean Dean,
Those units, even the wagons do not need to be marked. Under Sheriff Cotty, which I wasn't a fan of, some of the Wagons were not marked. The Sheriff Department is wasting tax payer money by marking the vehicles, and outfitting them with the lights and equipment. Why is there need for a laptop in any of the Sheriff Department vehicles other then the Wagons that are picking up prisoners on the street, or their supervisors? The Warrant Unit, Sexual Offender, Violent Felon, and Civil units do not need laptops. Why does the Sheriff Department need Motorcycles?
None of the current functions of the Sheriff Department require marked vehicles.
None of the current functions of the Sheriff Department require lights or light bars.

The Professor,
The Toyota Camrys cost more then the Crown Victoria's, just FYI. I agree on the cost to supply numerous part-lines instead of one line. The Duties of the Sheriff Department however do not require a fleet of Chargers or a fleet of Crown Victorias. The Sheriff could have saved numerous tax payer dollars and commissary funds by purchasing Ford Focus'. As their duties do not require Police Packages.