The report by International City/County Management Association spells out systemic and operational problems with the way the metro police department patrols the streets of Indianapolis and makes suggestions to do more with less as the Department of Public Safety faces a $15 million budget deficit.
As the force struggles to maintain its mandated strength of 1641 officers, ICMA consultants determined a significant number of uniformed officers were assigned to non-patrol duties. As Indianapolis' crime rate is up approximately 15 percent over a year ago, the report suggests moving to a zone patrol system of fewer and larger areas than the traditional beat system.
"The overwhelming problem is lack of manpower," said Sgt. Bill Owensby, president of FOP Lodge #86. "Whether you have 23 beats and 18 covered per day or you have six zones and have 18 people in the zones, you're still covering the same geographical area. You still have the same problem which is lack of manpower.
"What drives crime down and what makes people feel safe is visibility and if you don't have officers on the street patrolling the beats, patrolling the zones, people are not going to feel safe."
A City-County Council critic of Public Safety Director Straub wonders why the department, in the summer of 2010, sought an outside Washington, D.C., firm for a potential $325,000 contract when IUPUI or other university-based consultants could have done the job for much less.
"Questions immediately come to my mind, you've got a $340,000 contract that's been let and I see no indication that we asked anybody else in the community to bid on it," said Republican Jack Sandlin of Perry Township. "I am curious to find out why you would go out and let a no-bid contract in that amount without letting someone in our own community participate."
Straub served as a consultant with ICMA when he was the public safety director in White Plains, New York, before arriving in Indianapolis in January 2010. Previously, he hired Altegrity Solutions and his associate William Bratton to conduct a review of his department's Professional Standards Unit.
"I think Altegrity and now ICMA all have had relationships with Straub prior to him coming to Indianapolis," said Sandlin, "so you bring people in and you ignore people in the local community. That's troubling to me."
Straub's office did not respond to a request for comment. In the past, Mayor Greg Ballard's office has said it has, "no problem hiring the best in the business," when asked about the director's potential conflict-of-interest connections to consultants hired to do city work.
On April 18, Straub appears once again before the City-County Council's Public Safety Committee to answer questions about his $15 million budget deficit and face debate over his reappointment as public safety director.