IN Focus: One-on-one w/IMPD chief Bryan Roach

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INDIANAPOLIS – If Mayor Joe Hogsett has accepted that a slowing murder tally increase shows his strategy of fighting crime is, “starting to have an effect,” it’s up to Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Chief Bryan Roach to implement that plan and prove that Indianapolis is, as his boss also likes to say, “no mean city.”

Preliminary statistics show IMPD investigated 154 new murders in 2017, a handful of killings more than the year before, and 136 of those slayings were the result of gunfire.

“There’s a large population of the city that thinks guns is the answer to the problems that they have,” said Roach.

To that end, the chief said IMPD and Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry will this spring fully realize the promised cooperation that’s been bandied about for several years with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana when it comes to investigating and prosecuting gun crimes.

“You’re gonna have Assistant U.S. Attorneys at the districts,” said Roach. “You’re gonna have federal agents and our task force officers that are associated with them at the districts.

“You’ll start to see a process where illegal gun cases are handled and more of them going to our federal partners where you do 85 percent of the time rather than 75 percent that you do here.”

Second Amendment proponents claim it’s not the gun that kills, but the person who pulls the trigger, and Roach said the newly reconstituted Indianapolis Violence Reduction Project and IMPD crime analysts, armed with improved technology, will help investigators and the community target the most violent offenders terrorizing city neighborhoods.

“Now they’re at a point where we’re identifying the specific people that are involved in those incidents and we’re targeting them. The first part of the year we’ll begin collecting a list, and we’ve got that information already, a list of those who have been participatory in multiple non-fatal shootings or homicides.”

Such enforcement will need additional officers who are more highly trained.

Approximately 85 recruits are expected to pass through IMPD’s Training Academy this year to bring the department’s manpower level to above 1,700, a number unmatched for nearly ten years, and more officers will be patrolling smaller neighborhood beats as opposed to large zones in 2018.

“Our relationship with the community is a little better now than it was in the past. Even though we had the Aaron Bailey incident, we had peaceful protest which didn’t occur in other cities,” said Roach, recalling the public response after an unarmed man was killed by police last summer. “I think there’s a level of trust that has improved this year.”

As IMPD, the Indianapolis Fire Department and Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services improve their responses to overdose and mental illness crisis events, Roach is hopeful officers will take a more vested interest in the wellness of the city and not simply enforcement of the law.

“The better our relationship with our community and the more trust they have in their officers that hopefully we can develop through our personal development goal people would be more willing to talk to us, to give us information. We’ve got to make it safe for them to do that so that’s one of the things that we struggled with this year.”

IMPD’s murder clearance rate is approximately 42 percent.

Roach points to an anticipated witness protection program, funded by the mayor’s office but not yet implemented, as an attempt to support residents sick of crime but afraid to speak up.

The chief is seeking direction from resident groups across the city as to the type of policing they want to have in their neighborhoods while depending on those residents to show initiative in securing their communities and cooperating with police.

“It’s been a rough year,” Roach said looking back on 2017, his first 12 months as chief. “Large learning experience. It hasn’t ended up the way like I hoped. You never want to end the year with the level of violence we had in the city.”

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