Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ballard's IMPD, Dept. of Public Safety Slowly Sinking

After campaigning in 2007 to get the merged IMPD back under the jurisdiction of the Mayor and away from the Marion County Sheriff, Greg Ballard's police department has hit the iceberg and is taking on water. Whether it sinks or not depends on the next few weeks and the actions of a very weak Mayor.

The latest blow comes after IMPD apparently botched the investigation into the fatal accident that killed motorcyclist Eric Wells and critically injured two others after they were struck by Officer David Bisard. An admitted failure to follow procedure caused Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to throw out evidence showing Bisard had a blood alcohol level of .19 at the time of the accident.

Bisard also gets to keep his drivers license until his fate is decided because officers on the scene of the accident said there was no suspicion that he was intoxicated on the scene.

The latest case is just one example.

Earlier this summer, IMPD ran into controversy in the Brandon Johnson case. The teenager, his family, and community leaders alleged IMPD used excessive force against him. One officer has been recommended for termination following that case.

Need another example?

In the same article referenced above, an officer allegedly discharged his weapon inside a squad car in a domestic dispute. The incident led to his arrest in Danville.

But wait...there's more...

The Ballard Administration and the Department of Public Safety was criticized following the appointment of two local radio hosts but no City-County Council Democrats on the newly-formed Public Safety Advisory Board.

I'm still not done...

FOP members voted down the city's first contract offer after some personnel concerns related to the movement of detectives from downtown to the individual district offices. Allegations of trouble and friction between Dr. Frank Straub, the Public Safety Director, and many other members of IMPD forced Chief Paul Ciesielski to publicly pledge his support for Straub.

In short, it has not been a good year for public safety in the city. With a homicide rate that continues to be an issue, Mayor Ballard has to take some responsibility for putting the team in place that has allowed this to occur. It's his time to do something about all of this.

Changes at the upper levels need to be made. Frank Straub's short stint as Public Safety Director coming to an end would be a start. I tend not to blame Paul Ciesielski, but it's hard to continue to believe he has much institutional control over the department that is supposed to be his responsibility right now. If Straub is shown the door, then Ciesielski should be given the leeway to run his department.

With more control being collapsed under the non-elected Public Safety Director, it makes you wonder if maybe the Bart Peterson Plan that had the elected Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson in charge of law enforcement in the county wasn't a bad thing.

Without the pressure of being elected, the Public Safety Director just has to keep the Mayor happy. Somehow, though, I tend to believe that the tail might be wagging the dog. Nevertheless, it's time for Ballard to act or move aside so that someone can.

Just a final note, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to all the hardworking men and women that continue to pull on the blue IMPD uniform and wear that badge proudly and work hard each day to keep our community safe. I appreciate your efforts, and I hope that the rest of the community does as well.

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