Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vaughn Writes Apparent Whopper in Op/Ed

Ryan Vaughn's Wednesday op/ed in the Indianapolis Star reads like a desperate politician trying to hold on to power. To do it, he apparently fudged some numbers.

In the piece, Vaughn says that police staffing was allowed to fall during the Peterson Administration (of which Democratic Mayoral challenger Melina Kennedy was a part of) to "roughly 1,100" sworn officers. He's making the point that Mayor Greg Ballard has added tons of police officers to the force. Well, Councillor Vaughn, I'm calling that misleading at best and flat out lying at worst.

Vaughn is going with pre-merger IPD numbers. Let's take a few steps back.

In his landmark Peterson Plan, Bart Peterson promised to add 200 police officers to the streets of Indianapolis. Between IPD and the Marion County Sheriff's Department, he delivered on his pledge. When state funding began to dry up for local governments, Peterson was forced to think about layoffs in public safety. That was one of the reasons he proposed the Indy Works plan which would eventually be passed in part by the state legislature. The General Assembly gave IPD and the Marion County Sheriff's Department the authority to merge certain law enforcement functions with the consent of the City-County Council.

That consent came in the form of a contentious proposal that had both bi-partisan support and bi-partisan dissent. It passed 15-14 with Republican Scott Keller joining the Democrats (who held a 15-14 Council majority) to get it through. Democrat Sherron Franklin, an IPD officer, joined the Republicans in dissent.

So, let's look at some staffing numbers. IPD's old webpage says that IPD had 1,230 worn officers pre-merger. A report given by Bob Clifford to the City-County Council's Law Enforcement Consolidation Committee says on page 7 that 400 Marion County Sheriff's Deputies were affected by the merger. Quick calculation reveals a potential IMPD law enforcement staff of 1,680 officers, post merger. Where Vaughn gets the 1,100 number, I don't know.

Fast forward four years. Mayor Ballard's well short of the campaign promise to add 750 new officers to the streets. How do you make that number go away? Take today's IMPD staffing level of 1,626 sworn officers and subtract it from "roughly 1,100" and you get 526. While he doesn't make the claim directly, it certainly takes a bit of the sting out of the reality.

I simply cannot verify Vaughn's claim, and if you believe the numbers given by the city controller back in 2005 pre-merger, Ballard lost officers and hasn't added any. If you go by IMPD's numbers, there were 1,582 sworn officers in 2008. Now, there are 1,626. That's a gain of 44 officers in four years. Again, short of 750.

That devil is in the details. The Ballard Administration and its surrogates like Councillor Vaughn want you to believe their statistics hook, line, and sinker. They want you to believe the stats they quote that crime is down and that we are winning the public safety war in the city.

When people can't walk their dogs on the Monon Trail or attend the downtown fireworks ceremony on Independence Day without worrying about their safety, I would say that we are losing the battle. Public safety is as much about perception as it is reality. When we see news report after news report about shootings, carjackings, assaults, and murders, then I would say the perception sometimes speaks louder than a crafted reality.

In conclusion, Councillor Vaughn, if he wanted to make a true comparison, should have done what I just did and combine those staffing numbers from IPD and the MCSD. Then again, I think we know he just wanted to score some political points against Melina Kennedy and Bart Peterson.


Paul K. Ogden said...

"Public safety is as much about perception as it is reality. When we see news report after news report about shootings, carjackings, assaults, and murders, then I would say the perception sometimes speaks louder than a crafted reality."

Bingo. And that is why it will never be a successful political issue for Ballard. Even if their stats are correct, which you suggest are not, you can't get around the public perception issue. It blows my mind that the Ballard folks thinks that crime will be an issue that will break for them. Politics 101 says it will not be.

Anonymous said...

This is why the city so desperately wanted to convert the Indianapolis Public Schools police to IMPD officers. That would have added over 70 officers in one move. I believe he has added or is attempting to add small clusters of officers like park rangers etc. Ballard is in a panic to get the numbers looking better and it appears that Vaughn is willing to help cook the books to delude the voters into thinking that Ballard kept his promise on adding officers.

Anonymous said...

What I found most interesting (but not surprising) was the president of the council writing a campaign letter for the mayor.

It certainly makes clear that there is no separation of powers between branches of local govt.

Anonymous said...

Bart Peterson's 2007 LOIT increase was to add 100 more officersand provide $5 million each year for crime prevention. Ballard and Vaughn just squandered the extra revenues paying for pet projects. They even cancelled the police recruit class scheduled for January of 2008.