Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kennedy Calls for Polilce Chief to Report Directly to Mayor; Will She Call for Elimination of Public Safety Director Position?

Democratic Mayoral Candidate
Melina Kennedy
Yesterday the Indianapolis Star published a letter to the editor from Democratic candidate Melina Kennedy on public safety.  Here are some highlights:

Last year, in the wake of Public Safety Director Frank Straub's mishandling of certain aspects of the David Bisard accident investigation, I called on Mayor Greg Ballard to step forward, accept responsibility, and make major changes to public safety leadership. In fact, I called on Mayor Ballard to replace Straub with someone with the requisite skills, humility and temperament to lead the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Indianapolis Fire Department and our other public safety agencies.
It's now 10 months later, and today I am more convinced than ever that change is desperately needed at the top of public safety. Since my initial call for change, things, frankly, have only worsened.
Kennedy goes on to list four reasons why that public safety has not improved under Ballard.  She then concludes with a call to have the police chief report directly to the Mayor:
Additionally, there is one major thing we can do even without new programs or new funding: restore confidence in public safety leadership. Even though we need more, we do have 1,600 courageous police officers in IMPD who are dedicated and who want to prevent and solve crimes. To get the most out of their efforts, the chain of command should be clear. They should report to a strong and wise police chief, not a civilian public safety director who essentially acts as "Director Chief."

In turn, I fundamentally believe the police chief should report to the mayor, not to a middle man who filters information. As mayor, I would receive a briefing directly from the police chief every day, and make clear to the force of sworn officers that they are accountable to the chief, not to a public safety bureaucrat.
I think Ballard was right to bring in an outsider to bring needed reform to IMPD.  The problem is who he chose.  It didn't take long to figure out that Mr. Straub had major personality flaws, including being an egomaniac who is overly focused on his own public image and who apparently spends much of his day retaliating against perceived enemies within the department.  Further, spending by Straub in the Public Safety Department apparently is out of control.  This includes Straub spending money to redecorate his office and hiring high paid subordinates.

Although the administration did a poor job of reviewing Straub's background, the bigger fault lies with the decision to continue supporting him despite obvious character flaws which have demoralized the IMPD.  Politically, the move has also been a big loser.  I talk to several Republican law enforcement officials and even they have turned on Ballard because of his support of Straub.  Police officers and their families are a powerful voting block that generally favors Republicans.  That won't be the case this election.

Kennedy unfortunately stopped short in her proposal.   She should come out for the elimination of the Public Safety Director position.  A call by her to streamline the public safety bureaucracy by eliminating waste would be very popular with fiscal conservatives who enthusiastically supported the tea party-type Candidate Ballard in 2007, only to see Mayor Ballard pursue policies completely opposite of what he promised on the campaign trail.

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