Weekend a Huge Success for Black Expo, Community, IMPD and Mayor Ballard

This weekend, Indianapolis hosted the Indiana Black Expo and it was a huge success. Over the last few years, the positive aspects of the event have been overshadowed by violence.  The saddest part of this is that the violence was caused not by those attending the official Black Expo events but those using the event as a reason to loiter around downtown. 

This year, however, was a much-needed positive experience that showed the Black Expo can be a safe, fun-filled weekend for families.  You can read the Star’s full story here but here are some of the highlights.

Vernon Williams, IBE spokesman, said officials hope it is a turnaround that will carry over to future Summer Celebrations and help erase the taint of past violence.

“We’re just extremely gratified,” Williams said, “that there were no serious incidents last night.”

He said several factors contributed to the turnaround. He cited a concerted, cooperative effort between police and Black Expo officials and the help of faith leaders, who mustered several hundred volunteers to monitor activity on the streets on Friday and Saturday nights.

Relocating the popular celebrity basketball game to the Indiana Convention Center from Conseco Fieldhouse was another positive change, Williams said. That kept attendees under one roof, so fewer young people roamed the streets getting from one venue to another, he said, and it “encouraged more parents to come into the convention center for other events instead of just dropping their kids off.”

“There is no doubt about it that Mayor Ballard and the Police Department did a great job,” Williams said. “We are very, very grateful for the way they stepped up and assured our citizens and visitors safe travel in and around the Downtown.”

In a statement issued Sunday, Ballard said that “thousands of visitors to Downtown Indianapolis this weekend enjoyed events filled with activities for families and children, and they did so in an atmosphere of peace achieved with the tremendous support of our partners.

“I commend the Indiana Black Expo organizers, Summer Celebration participants, Ten Point Coalition and the many officers from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Police for their efforts working together to make the security surrounding this year’s Summer Celebration a success.”


Mayor Ballard Writes the Post We Didn’t

A few weeks ago, Melina Kennedy released her plan to combat illegal guns. 

We did not write on it since we were on hiatus and we thought the plan was a lot of political talk that sounds good but does not really accomplish anything.  You can judge for yourself by reading it.

Mayor Ballard had an op-ed printed in today’s IndyStar that addresses the issues we saw in the plan so we aren’t going to re-create the wheel.

Public safety is Job One. I ran on that platform in 2007, and I devote constant attention to making our streets safer. One of our first actions was to return responsibility for the police department to the mayor. We are transforming the training of our police officers and investing in new equipment, vehicles and technology. We are aggressively pursuing that small group of criminals who cause most of the problems.

Our efforts to increase safety are working. Last year, the number of homicides dropped to the lowest level since 1995; and we are on pace to have even fewer homicides this year. Violent crime is lower. Overall crime is lower. You are safer on the streets of Indianapolis. We are making dramatic improvements.

Recently the issue of illegally possessed guns has been a topic of discussion in The Indianapolis Star. Some people think the answer lies with amnesty for criminals, signing a national gun control petition and closing the so-called “gun show loophole.” Others have suggested the creation of a special unit within the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department tasked with addressing illegal guns.

Let me be clear. I do not support amnesty programs for gang members, drug dealers or people who use guns in the commission of a crime. I will not sign a national gun control petition, especially one that does not remove a single illegally possessed gun from our streets. Creating a special police unit might score political points, but it detracts from the real police work being done, work that seized nearly 2,000 illegally possessed guns last year.

We focus on tactics that work and make our streets safer. IMPD special units aggressively and relentlessly focus on tracking down gang members and drug pushers, the two groups using guns to commit crimes in Indianapolis. Since I took office, we have made nearly 5,000 drug arrests, executed more than 700 search warrants, seized more than $19 million in drug money, and taken nearly 690 pounds of cocaine, 16,200 pounds of marijuana, and 26,000 grams of heroin off the streets.

When it comes to the so-called “gun show loophole,” let’s focus on the facts. Current law requires all professional gun dealers to run a background check prior to sale, regardless of whether that sale is taking place in a retail store or a gun show. According to the FBI, 0.7 percent of criminals purchased their weapons at gun shows. Most criminals purchase their guns from other criminals on the streets or they steal them. That’s where IMPD is focused.

Education and community partnership are also keys to helping address this problem. I want to praise Sheriff John Layton for working to distribute gun locks for legally possessed firearms. I also want to thank the many community groups and local faith-based organizations working to increase awareness of gun safety and encourage people to turn in illegally possessed or unwanted firearms.

We are addressing the real issue with real actions. It is an issue we take to heart because we have witnessed senseless tragedies in our community and lost one of our own as a result of illegally possessed firearms. But, a national petition, amnesty programs and more government bureaucracy are not the answer. Continuing the aggressive and relentless work of our hardworking men and women of IMPD, our drug and gang task forces and our county, state and federal partners are.

Ballard is mayor of Indianapolis.

FOP Votes Tonight to Rescind Vote to Provide Bisard Legal Defense

Last month, you may remember that the FOP voted to pay for the legal defense of IMPD Officer David Bisard.  Tonight, the FOP will hold a meeting and a vote to rescind the earlier vote that approved providing the legal defense for Bisard.

We’re hearing that many members of the FOP were outraged by the vote to provide Bisard legal defense particularly since the accusations against Bisard are incredibly embarrassing for the rank and file officers. In addition to that, there is a lot of chatter that many members have asked for legal defense and been shut down completely on much more low profile and less embarrassing cases.

The FOP sent the notice to its members saying,

The FOP Regular Business Meeting will be January 6th at 1800 hours. This email will serve as notice that a member has requested that the membership be notified that a motion will be made regarding a recent legal request that had passed in a previous meeting. The motion will deal with rescinding the original motion. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, if previous notice is given regarding a Motion to Rescind, then a simple majority vote is all that is necessary. If previous notice is not given then the motion requires 2/3 vote to overturn. Therefore, because of this notice, the motion will require a SIMPLE MAJORITY to pass/fail. I have heard from many of you regarding the legal requests that were voted on in the December meeting. This is your notice that there will be a motion, discussion, and vote on a member’s request for legal assistance.

It is pretty clear the FOP leadership knows it is in their best interest to fix this and fix it fast.  Hopefully, the rank and file agrees.

FOP Survey Shows Low Morale

Yesterday afternoon, the Fraternal Order of Police released a survey of its members showing extremely low morale throughout IMPD. The FOP surveyed its members and received responses from about 58% of the officers. 

The results were not good.  Fewer than 17 percent said they have high morale and even less say they have the support of their commanders.  The article from the Indy Star indicates that this is a dramatic drop compared to a similar poll conducted in 2008.  85% feel they have the support of their immediate supervisors but only 5.7 percent said they have the support of Ciesielski and 3.4 percent said they have the support of Straub.

We think it probably is tough to be an officer right now.  A few bad apples have made some inexcusable mistakes and it has brought down increased scrutiny on the 95% of police officers who are doing a great job.  

But we kind of wonder when this poll was taken.  We were NOT fans of Straub for much of the past few months.  He certainly has his flaws.  But the last week or so since his centurion call to duty speech, we’ve started to feel a little differently.  He seems to be putting forth a concerted effort to get things back in line and remind the officers that they have a duty to clean up the bad apples and restore public trust.  If they do this, the morale of the department should improve. 

No one likes the boss breathing down their neck and it sounds like the immediate supervisors and Straub/Ciesielski are playing good cop-bad cop literally.