INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- IMPD officers Sara Didandeh and Jonathan Willey went to a birthday party in Haughville.
Catrina Rush and nephew Chris Rush share the same birth date and the same party just a few blocks from IMPD Southwest District Headquarters where Didandeh and Willey recently found themselves assigned to a walking beat as part of Mayor Joe Hosgett’s promise to put more Metro officers into neighborhoods.
“Thank you and thank you and thank you and we plan on seeing you a lot more,” said Catrina, wearing festive birthday glasses festooned with candles. “They just introduced themselves to us and they’re not the only officers I’ve known since I bought this house.”
This was exactly the reception IMPD Chief Troy Riggs hoped his officers would receive when he announced the new system for walking beats throughout the city May 5.
“They’re going to be given the social services that are nearby to help families when they’re in need,” said Riggs with Hogsett by his side, “but they’re also going to be given the task to find those individuals that are responsible for perpetuating violence in this community and removing them so our citizens can be safe and live without fear in this community.”
The two young officers said they’re both still trying to figure out how to leave their patrol cars behind and walk up to neighbors and start talking.
“We just kind of shake hands,” said Willey. “Ask who they are. Ask if they have anything they want us to know and go from there.”
“When we’re walking, it’s a lot different than you’re driving down the street, you can see more, hear more, and get a conversation going with the people that you’re serving,” said Didandeh. “Just when you’re walking down an alley sometimes you see a little bit more of what goes on behind somebody’s house and the alley. Even walking down the street you can even see what neighbors got going on on their porch and stuff. When you’re driving you’re kind of slow rolling down the street and you don’t see as much as when you’re walking a beat.”
Rush bought her house six years ago and, with a backyard full of family celebrating dual birthdays, she said she has plenty of reasons to want to meet her beat officers and share information.
“Just for them to be on feet and not actually running through all the time its good,” she said. “It builds relationships with the neighbors if one goes to another and another and if someone else doesn’t want to talk to them but somebody else does trust them so that relationship and that conversation alone would help build relationships with someone else.”
Riggs announced the establishment of 19 beats in the city, 15 in neighborhoods and four in the entertainment districts of downtown, Fountain Square and Broad Ripple.
To convince officers to find a comfort level outside the mobility and protection of their cars and to strike up conversations with strangers will require a mindset reboot throughout much of IMPD, which is why many young officers still in the formative years of their careers have been assigned to take a walk.
As proof, a patrol officer rolled up in his squad car to the Rush house and in a friendly yet inquisitive tone asked if everything was alright.
No problem, he was told. Didandeh and Willey were just attending a birthday party.
Then the cops had their pictures taken with the lady in the funny glasses and her nephew.