I first met Officer Friendly in grade school, when he visited my classroom and explained that The Policeman Is Your Friend. It didn’t occur to me that reality might be somewhat more complicated until my second day as Bill Hudnut’s Corporation Counsel, when IPD initiated a job action by circling the City County Building with…
Sheila Suess Kennedy
Crime and Punishment_________________________________________________
I first met Officer Friendly in grade school, when he visited my classroom and explained that The Policeman Is Your Friend. It didn’t occur to me that reality might be somewhat more complicated until my second day as Bill Hudnut’s Corporation Counsel, when IPD initiated a job action by circling the City County Building with patrol cars, turning on their sirens, and walking off after dumping all the car keys in a large trash can.
Of all the issues a Mayor faces, public safety is quite possibly the most important. Keeping citizens safe, as Morton properly notes, is the first obligation of government. One of the few predictions we can make with confidence about the upcoming mayoral campaign is that crime and its control will figure prominently in the discussions. What is less certain is how edifying those discussions will be.
It doesn’t take a lot of political courage to be "for" law and order and "against" crime. The devil, as the old saying goes, is in the details. What voters have a right to demand of the candidates is honest discussion of those details, particularly proposals to deal with a very troubled police department and a soaring homicide rate.
The famous–or infamous–Meridian Street brawl highlighted problems which have bothered people in and out of IPD for many years: nepotism, favoritism, racial divisions, accountability and the role of the FOP. These issues are hardly unique to Indianapolis, but we have tended to handle them badly when we have handled them at all.
The next Mayor will have to address a number of politically charged issues:
- Despite intense opposition by William Dowden, longtime chair of the Council’s public safety committee, a 1998 ordinance finally put some teeth into civilian review of IPD. Will the next Mayor provide the resources and support necessary to make the process work?
- There are eighteen separate law enforcement agencies within Marion County, diluting accountability and wasting tax dollars by duplication and overlap. What does the next Mayor propose to do about it?
- Available statistics suggest whites account for nearly 70% of illegal drug activity, yet criminal lawyers estimate that over 95% of defendants in Marion County’s drug court are black. Many in the African-American community believe the "drug war" is waged only against black Americans.
Will the next Mayor target suburban as well as inner-city neighborhoods?
- How will the next Mayor work with the Chief and other law enforcement personnel to ensure political accountability and restore public confidence?
Police are the most visible element of a city’s public safety efforts, but ultimate responsibility for law and order rests upon political leadership. The next Mayor must earn the trust both of IPD’s rank and file and of citizens whose confidence in the department has been badly shaken by a series of incidents during the last few years. Voters have not only the right, but the obligation, to ask candidates how they propose to deliver the law and order we all want and deserve.
Sheila Kennedy?Page 2?7/3/99