INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – It’s a difficult and heated debate brought back to life by the tragic death of IMPD Officer Perry Renn. Officials say his death shines a light on the department’s desperate need for more officers.
IMPD and the fraternal order of police say the department loses about 50 officers a year through attrition and serious injuries and death, like in the case of Officer Perry Renn.
Those officers are difficult to replace, but Chief Hite doesn’t just want to keep numbers level. He wants to hire double the amount of officers he’s losing so they are better supported on the streets.
FOP Vice President Rick Snyder says right now, IMPD is in a weakened and compromised position. That’s led to two officers a week on average becoming a victim of assault.
And while not everyone is supportive of more officers, he says he’d be surprised if anyone would want fewer and that’s where the department is headed, unless something is done.
“We are hundreds of police officers short here in the IMPD. We are now seeing the ripple effect of what occurs when we don’t have the resources to combat crime, especially in the beginning stages, and we then start to spiral out of control,” Snyder said.
Both the FOP and Chief Rick Hite would like to see IMPD reach 750 officers. That would require hiring about 100 officers a year for the next five years.
Paying for those officers is another difficult task. Each officer costs IMPD $125,000, according to the FOP. Even with retirements, the department would be nearly $25 million short.
FOP suggest eliminating the Homestead Tax Credit. That would bring in about $9 million. The next step, they say, should be increasing the Public Safety Tax by at least .15-percent. That adds up to about $65/year for someone making $50,000.
“So it’s $1.25 a week. For less than a cup of coffee each week more, we can get the 500 additional officers we need. So the question becomes again, we’re at this crossroads, is our community willing to take that on?” Snyder said.
The FOP said the council has the power to increase the Public Safety Tax right now without higher approval.
During the Tuesday press conference, law enforcement leaders also pushed new legislation to create a mandatory minimum sentence for serious felons who use a weapon.
Police say that minimum sentence to be 20 years.
Right now in Indiana, there is not a minimum sentence for those felons who use a weapon.
FOP leaders say that leads to officers having to arrest and rearrest felons after short sentences. Tuesday, they vowed to ask legislators to moved forward with strict minimum sentences of at least 10 years. They say if those were in place at least 15 homicides wouldn’t have occurred in Indianapolis in the last year.
“We’ve got to stop looking at bed spaces as something to bargain out. If someone commits a crime that’s serious enough and they use a weapon they have to pay the price for that,” FOP President Bill Ogelsby said.
Police also believe minimum sentences will also make is easier for witnesses to come forward. Right now, 60-percent of victims do not want to work with investigators, because police say they’re scared of their attackers being back on the street so quickly.