INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's new chief has a docket full of issues waiting on his desk on day 1 – not the least of which is the city's second straight year of record-setting homicides.
Mayor Joe Hogsett announced IMPD veteran Bryan Roach would take over the chief's job Wednesday. The move comes after the surprise resignation of former IMPD chief Troy Riggs in December.
Roach has been with the department since 1991, most recently as deputy chief of administration. Hogsett said the new chief has held "every position, merit or appointed, within IMPD" during his 25 years with the department.
He'll need that experience to deal with the challenges facing him. Below, we broke down three of the most pressing issues on his plate:
Roach won't only inherit a city coming off its second straight year of record homicides, he also comes into the chief's office with more than 90 unsolved homicide cases from 2016 alone. Those homicides include some of the very first from 2016.
Three men, 19-year-old Terry Williams, 37-year-old Wesley Collins and 32-year-old Edward Rice, were all killed in the first seven days of 2016. As of this writing, only Williams' case has resulted in an arrest.
With IMPD's homicide solve rate still below 50 percent for 2016, Roach said more resources may be called for.
"Is 24 homicide detectives for the 149 homicides we had last year enough? Probably not," he said.
Riggs was only chief for a little less than a year, but during that time he pursued an aggressive policy of "disruption" when it came to drug trafficking.
During his tenure, IMPD launched new narcotics flex teams and executed some of its largest drug-related operations in history, netting hundreds of arrests.
At the time, Riggs said the city should understand that kind of disruption was likely to leave a void that other criminal elements would seek to fill. That void is now Roach's to deal with.
On top of that, drugs were the motive cited most often for last year's homicides. Approximately 38 percent of all criminal homicides in 2016 stemmed from drugs or drug-related incidents, according to IMPD.
The city is also facing an opioid crisis as traffickers bring in drugs like carfentanil – a much more potent, and deadly, opiate that is increasingly being seen cut into heroin. Following "Operation Glass Houses" last year, the city learned that a drug trafficking ring had been operating for an unknown amount of time on the southwest side of Indianapolis that was bringing in methamphetamine from near the Mexican border.
IMPD's East District Commander Roger Spurgeon makes no bones about it: East District has long been "busier" than other parts of the city.
Last year the East District included some of the worst of the worst neighborhoods when it came to homicides, assaults and robberies. That's one reason IMPD chose the district for its first "Operation New Normal" social services sweep to follow up a larger effort in October that netted nearly 200 arrests.
Roach said he intended to add some "meat & nuts & bolts" to many of the things Riggs initiated, including the return to beats and data-driven policing. He said that what will make or break that strategy is developing "high-trust relationships" with neighborhoods like the Near Eastside -- which led every other neighborhood last year with 24 homicides.
"Officers must treat people as people, no matter the circumstance," Roach said. "It's instance after instance after instance that builds the much sought-after community policing model."