One of the things I promised more of during this new 2008 was going to be local coverage of Indiana and Indy Metro area politics. My first official entry of 2008 makes good on that promise; one of the big stories that I’m going to following through the year is the first term of Mayor Greg Ballard, who was inaugurated yesterday.
I blogged about Mayor Ballard’s rather surprising win after the November election; I’m still sort of in shock about the whole thing. I don’t live in City of Indianapolis, so I didn’t have a direct influence on the outcome of said election (sadly).
The main aspect of Mayor Ballard’s new administration that really interests me is his desire to wrest control of the Indianapolis Metro Police Department away from Sheriff Frank Anderson, and move it back to a Chief of Police appointed by the Mayor’s office.
“All public safety agencies must be under the mayor’s chain of command,” the retired Marine lieutenant colonel (Ballard) said in his speech.
For my readers outside of the Indy area, Indianapolis has a a somewhat unusual police situation. The City of Indianapolis coincides with Marion County pretty much exactly, which means that if you’re in Marion County, you’re in Indianapolis as well. Prior to last year, we had an Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) and the Indianapolis Sheriff’s Office, which were both responsible for largely the same law enforcement duties in the Metro area. The exception to that was that there were several weird (for lack of a better word) areas of the city that were not serviced by IPD, and received emergency services from their own small PDs and the Sheriff’s office.
Last year, as part of a much larger consolidation effort, the IPD and the MCSO were merged into one force, the Indianapolis Metro Police Department, or IMPD. Former Mayor Peterson didn’t have the juice to make this happen, as during the initial stages of the proposal, it was opposed by Sheriff Anderson, who rather understandably did not want to lose control of his department. A key concession made by the planners of the merger was that the elected Sheriff would maintain operational command of the new merged police force.
So now Mayor Ballard’s fight is to have control of the IMPD moved away from Sheriff Anderson, and to a Mayor-appointed Chief of Police. Normally, I am against moving powers from elected officials to political appointees as a matter of personal policy. However, I opposed the police merger to begin with, and opposed placing the administrative power in Sheriff Anderson’s hands. So you can see my consternation here, as I don’t want Sheriff Anderson in charge of the IMPD, and yet at the same time I don’t want the main police powers to go to a political appointee. It’s not that I don’t think the new mayor would pick a good person, but rather I’m trying to have long term vision here. Only a fool would assume that more conservative elements will always control the Mayor’s office, and while I may get a Chief of Police that I like, what happens when Ballard is no longer in office?
Needless to say, I’ll be following the struggle to change control of the police to the Mayor’s Office with some interest. Currently, I’m leaning towards Mayor Ballard’s desire to take control away from the Sheriff, but we’ll see how that goes as I get more info through the year.