INDIANAPOLIS — As of Wednesday morning, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had 1515 officers wearing the badge after swearing to protect the Circle City’s residents.
Mayor Joe Hogsett has set aside enough money to employ 1843 officers through the end of next year.
IMPD is nowhere near reaching its hiring goals to spend that money on more than 300 new officers.
The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a report surveying the bleak hiring landscape for local police departments and makes several recommendations.
The DOJ suggests local police chiefs relax their hiring standards and overlook minor crimes or isolated incidents so as not to preclude candidates who made a one-time mistake from becoming officers.
”When I got on 36 years ago if you had some marijuana history in your background, you could forget it,” said IMPD Chief Randal Taylor. “Now, with some people coming from states where it’s legal and society’s change of outlook on that, that doesn’t necessarily preclude you from being in law enforcement.
“As for time frames when was the last time you used, I think those have been relaxed somewhat.”
Taylor said there are still some past incidents that would be deal breakers for potential recruits.
“Obviously domestics are among the types of things we can’t consider. Robberies and that kind of thing,” he said. “Traffic violations may be a little easier to get through depending on what that was, if you had a number of speeding tickets or something like that, we might be able to get past that. DWIs are again a major concern depending on how long ago that was and what happened in your life since then.”
The DOJ report also suggests that departments engage in more scenario-based training for their recruits and veterans in order to better prepare officers for what they may encounter on the streets.
To that end, IMPD opened up its scenario-based village dubbed Hershyville on the grounds of the Training Academy, a warren of 25 simple buildings in order to train officers to move and respond into a city-like environment.
“In this training facility, recruits will find nearly every kind of environment present in the city of Indianapolis,” said Mayor Hogsett. “Mock apartments, businesses, restaurants and more.”
Field Training Officer Kevin Hershberger spearheaded the construction of the village and its training curriculum.
“I look at this and see the future of IMPD,” he said. “Hershyville is about understanding people, how to use your voice, your body language, your tone of voice and to de-escalate a situation through communication and to ultimately come to a peaceful resolution.”
“I know the training that is going to go on in this village is going to save lives,” said IMPD Deputy Chief Catherine Cummings.
IMPD currently has one Academy class underway with 471 applicants for the next session in December and one thousand more applicants looking forward to classes next year.
“We’ve moved to three classes which is great but I’m not opposed to four or five even if they’re smaller,” said Taylor. “We’ve seen an uptick in our laterals, people who are coming through from different parts of the country. We’re getting people from New York and Florida and places like that.”