I generally like Ericka Smith’s columns–indeed, she and Matt Tully generally write the only things worth reading in what used to be a real newspaper. But she got this one really, really wrong.
I know a fair number of police officers, and a significantly larger number of politicians. I also have several colleagues who work closely with IMPD as consultants and researchers. I have not heard any of them criticize Frank Straub’s ideas for change. What I have heard–frequently–is criticism of Straub himself.
I have never personally met the man, but the picture painted by those who do is consistent: he came to Indianapolis with an “attitude.” He gave orders but never listened. He let everyone know that he was from a real city, and knew lots more than the “rubes” here in India-no-place. As willing as he was to dish out criticism, he was incredibly thin-skinned and defensive if anyone dared question or criticize him.
Think about your own job: how likely would you be to accept changes initiated by a boss who acted like that?
We teach public and nonprofit management at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. One of the central points we make is the importance of “owning” change. Most people–not just in Indianapolis–are uncomfortable with change; in order to effectively shift an organization, a manager must create an atmosphere of trust, must obtain not just the acquiescence, but the understanding and “buy in” of the employees who must implement that change.
If a manager doesn’t do that, it doesn’t matter how great the ideas are. (Remember Steve Goldsmith?)
Indianapolis isn’t rejecting Straub’s changes, Ericka. It’s rejecting Straub.
When Greg Ballard ran for mayor, we were treated to a lot of rhetoric about crime. Public Safety was going to be “job one” in a Ballard administration. Well, if crime has been job one, I shudder to think of how we are doing with jobs two through ten.
The media have reported on our distressing rates of violent crime; it seems as if there’s a murder every day or so. But there are fewer reports of the so-called nonviolent and “petty” crimes: thefts from cars parked on city streets, burglaries and house break-ins, etc. And those have grown alarmingly.
I live in the Old Northside now, but my husband and I have lived in downtown neighborhoods for 30 years. We were part of the Hudnut Administration that jump-started the renaissance of the city’s core. In that thirty-year period, I have never seen the rate of what police call “household invasions” anywhere near this high. Just in the past month, I’ve had three neighbors I know personally burgled, and the neighborhood listserv has circulated reports of several others. One friend was in his house, in bed with his wife, when intruders broke in and took computers and other electronics. (Talk about shaking your sense of security!)
My friends in IMPD report significant issues of morale and management in the department. Whether those issues affect the crime rate, I don’t know. What I DO know is that crime is increasingly a topic of concern among my friends and neighbors, and that there is a perception of a significant increase in criminal activity. That’s troubling enough, but what is even more troubling is that the Mayor does not seem to recognize either the problem or the challenge that the growing concern about crime poses to other important city goals.