Police, city clash over spending more on additions to the force

INDIANAPOLIS - There’s general agreement that the city’s police department is woefully understaffed and underfunded. The city council and mayor squared off again Monday night -- without success -- in an attempt to secure a long-term funding solution for more officers.

Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) vice president Rick Snyder wants the council and the mayor to stop pointing fingers and start pointing to solutions.

“We are absolutely calling 911, and no one is answering the police,” Snyder said. “This isn’t a joke. It isn’t a game. Lives are at stake.”

That was the impassioned plea in front of the City-County Council, from the Fraternal Order of Police, hours before another of its own was shot in the line of duty. Officer Greg Stevens was wounded in the leg early Tuesday morning and will recover. 

But that shooting underscores the urgency of finding a funding formula to hire 80 police recruits in 2014. The latest Democratic plan would use $3.1 million from the Information Service Agency and $4.5 million from parking meter money. They say that $7.6 million is enough to add the 80 officers.

"We are hundreds of IMPD officers short,” council vice president John Barth said. “What we are doing is really a near-term move to plug the hole, and trying to get the IMPD to a level place and build from there."

"The council Democrats are basically saying they want to hire new officers with no way to pay them, no way to equip them after next year,” city communications director Marc Lotter said. “The mayor thinks that is bad budgeting where you have to be able to afford to pay your bills as you go, and not just use one time measures over and over again."

That back and forth is frustrating for law enforcement, police said. Police continue to do their jobs on the street, but are growing weary.

"Sooner or later the citizens are gonna be tired of it. They might not be tired of it now. They may think this is all about politics, because it is all about politics,” FOP president Bill Owensby said. “Sooner or later they are gonna get scared because they don't see the police anymore. They are gonna get scared because crime is increasing."

There is tremendous frustration at the FOP and budget negotiations are ongoing. The budget will be voted on Oct. 14.

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