Indianapolis mayoral candidate Joe Hogsett on Wednesday outlined a public safety plan that calls for hiring 150 new police officers in the next four years.
The new officers, he said, would allow the department shift back to neighborhood-level beat policing, a departure from today’s model, which has officers covering larger zones.
Hogsett rolled out the plan at an afternoon news conference at Indianapolis’ old City Hall, where he recalled a week of gun violence that left an 18 year-old mother dead, allegedly at the hands of a 14-year-old assailant.
“What began that night with a single bullet will ripple across generations,” he said.
“No neighborhood should accept hopelessness as their permanent burden to bear.”
Public safety is widely expected to be a top issue in the race between Hogsett, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, restaurateur Chuck Brewer.
The city’s homicide rate topped 135 criminal homicides last year — the most in eight years. Current public safety administrators cite a myriad of reasons why they believe the rate has spiked in recent years, including rampant use of drugs like heroin, poverty, mental illness and the illegal use of guns by people with criminal pasts.
The increase would take the department to close to 1,750 total officers, a figure that, when lined up side-by-side with the city’s current projections, would be a gain of 35 to 50 officers over what the current administration expects to hire in that same period.
In response, Brewer called the plan “flimsy,” and chastised Hogsett for not taking into account the hiring the city is already doing.
Hours before the news conference, Brewer challenged Hogsett to a series of debates, a call he reiterated after Hogsett’s public safety plans were announced.
“Voters deserve a real discussion about our plans for the future of our city and that’s why I am calling for nine debates, one in each township,” Brewer said in a released statement.
Thomas Cook, a spokesman for Hogsett’s campaign, acknowledged that the 150 officer pledge didn’t necessarily look “grandiose” — particularly when compared to the staffing levels of a decade ago.
“I think the importance of this is Joe taking ownership of a number – yes, I’m committing to this,” Cook said. “Part of this is saying, without criticizing previous Democratic and Republican administrations, we’ll actually follow through on all of that and get us to this level.”
At $120,000 to staff and equip each officer, Hogsett would need to come up with at least $4.2 million to make up the difference between his goal and the city’s projections, money that his campaign said would come from a variety of sources.
One such source is two prior income tax hikes, which the campaign said would be re-allocated to hire more officers. Cook said they hadn’t identified specific expenses to cut, but that Hogsett believes more of the funds should be devoted to staffing.
They also expect to find money by cutting inefficient spending when the county eventually builds a criminal justice center. Hogsett and Council Democrats opposed Ballard’s proposal, which would have relied on those savings to fund the facility itself.
Hogsett also says he wants to build upon several policy initiatives and programs that began under the Ballard administration, including the Republican mayor’s pilot pre-kindergarten program, the city’s youth summer jobs program and the Your Life Matters plan, which aims to curb black-on-black violence.
Ballard’s pre-K program passed its final obstacle in March, when the City-Council voted to fund the first year of the $40 million scholarship program for low-income children. Under that program, an estimated 700 to 1,200 children from the most at-risk neighborhoods will receive scholarships toward attending pre-K programs.
Public safety officials, meanwhile, launched this year the department’s second annual summer jobs fundraising initiative aimed at keeping teenagers off the streets and away from violence. Hogsett already announced his version of a summer jobs program, which seeks to hire 1,000 teens to part-time jobs in a $3 million initiative funded by businesses and nonprofits.
The Your Life Matters initiative also began last year as a concerted effort toward motivating at-risk youths to take part in crime reduction and prevention programs — something Hogsett pledged to support.