INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Should State Senator Jim Merritt prevail over Mayor Joe Hogsett in next month’s election, the north side Republican said he would name former IMPD Deputy Chief of Investigations Bill Benjamin as the city’s next Chief of Police.
Merritt said he expects Benjamin to issue his response to the public invitation next week.
“There can be no question that Chief Benjamin is the right man which is why I will reach across the aisle to seek his leadership,” said Merritt.
Benjamin is currently a reserve lieutenant with the Lawrence Police Department and ran unsuccessfully for the democratic nomination for Marion County Sheriff in 2018.
Benjamin told FOX59 News that he was not aware of Merritt’s job offer until 90 minutes after the press announcement.
“He never offered me anything,” said Benjamin. “I like his platform. Crime is the issue.”
Merritt said if elected he would name a deputy mayor for public safety, order his officers to “swarm” a neighborhood with 10-15 patrol cars and conduct street interviews in the wake of fatal shootings and form a Metro Homicide Squad with detectives from the Indiana State Police and other Marion County police departments.
Benjamin said he was honored by Merritt’s offer and that he would, “pray on it,” before issuing his public response next Tuesday.
Merritt’s invitation to Benjamin would indicate that, if elected, he would not keep current IMPD Chief Bryan Roach at the head of the department.
Hogsett named Roach as chief at the end of his first year as mayor.
“Chief Bryan Roach has decades of experience within IMPD,” read a statement issued by the Hogsett campaign. “The data shows that we are making encouraging progress over the last two years.
“Mayor Hogsett continues to believe there is no better person to lead our police force.”
Roach has repeatedly pledged to serve out Hogsett’s first term which would end on December 31st of this year.
During his campaign in 2015, Hogsett said that he wanted to be known as the “Public Safety Mayor”.
Merritt said the incumbent must own Indianapolis’ current crime challenge.
“This is an epidemic in Indianapolis and its time somebody get mad about it and do something about it,” said Merritt.
The FBI recently published IMPD’s 2018 crime statistics.
The study found that overall incidents of reported crimes continued a downward trend begun within the last few years with violent crime reports off four percent when compared with 2017.
IMPD credits a shift to more beat-oriented policing, the hiring of hundreds of new officers, application of a new data tracking system, enhance investigative techniques and better community cooperation including residents securing their own properties with lights, barriers and surveillance cameras.
Homicide, rape and vehicle theft numbers showed slight increases in 2018 while property crime reports were down.
“There are countless people who told me that something happened in their home that they were dissuaded from reporting the crime,” claimed Merritt. “To look the 114 families who had a family member or friend who was a victim of a crime, victim of murder in 2019, 114 victims of murder, and tell them that crime has gone down would be insulting to them.
“I’m most concerned about 114 people being murdered in 2019 and almost 600 people being murdered in Joe Hogsett’s term.”
IMPD lists 577 murder since Hogsett took office on January 1, 2016, and 112 murders since January 1st.
Merritt touted the IMPD homicide clearance level of 81% during Benjamin’s command of the branch and contrasted that with his claim that IMPD’s 2019 homicide clearance tally.
While IMPD has cleared 44% of this year’s homicides, its clearance rate for 2019 is 58% including cases from previous years that were solved this year.