INDIANAPOLIS — One of the loudest calls from the voices of police reform advocates in Indianapolis over the last year has been for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to hire more members of the community so the police force looks more like the neighbors it is charged with protecting.
If it were only that easy.
Between 700 and 1,000 people begin the IMPD hiring process by filling out the initial paperwork on the road to becoming a police officer.
At the end at the IMPD Training Academy, perhaps 50 will graduate and take their place on the thin blue line.
“The community has to push people in this community to become part of this police department,” said IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey. “If we want to see people who are reflective of our community and of our community, then it takes the community pushing them in our direction.”
Nationwide and throughout Indiana, police departments are desperate to replace retiring officers or veterans burned out or fed up with the profession.
“It’s been a struggle for departments all over the country to find people, so now we’re all competing for the same candidate pool,” said Bailey.
On Wednesday, there are approximately 1,670 officers at IMPD.
Mayor Joe Hogsett has given chief Randal Taylor enough money to pay 1,743 officers in the coming year with federal funds available to boost that level another 100 officers over the next three years.
If only IMPD could find the candidates.
“We have to work with our community organizations, faith-based organizations and otherwise,” said Bailey. “This is an honorable profession, one that the members of your group should be part of, this organization.”
IMPD is offering $5,000 bonuses to officers making lateral transfers from other departments, providing incentive payments to current officers who recommend recruits to the IMPD Training Academy, bringing back retirees and officers who left the department in good standing and taking its recruitment efforts nationwide.
Bailey said IMPD offers a pension and a steady paycheck at a time when employers all across the economy are scrambling to fill empty posts.
Indianapolis Department of Public Works Director Dan Parker said his department has 100 open jobs, some of them unionized positions starting at $19 an hour, and is looking to add nearly three dozen new positions, including engineering and levee monitoring specialists.
Fletcher Triplett of the Mackida Loveal & Trip Outreach Center in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood said he recently held an event along with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to expunge traffic fines and suspended drivers licenses so that applicants could potentially fill those empty DPW positions. This Saturday, he will co-sponsor the Youth Power Expo at the Moorhead Community Resource Center at 8400 East 10th Street and feature a barbershop talk with IMPD officers about the value of pursuing a law enforcement career.
“I talk to my kids, my young men, all the time and say, ‘You know what, if you want a change, be that change. Become a police officer, because if you are a police officer at IMPD, now you have the inside voice about what’s going on, and you can make that difference.
“We’re connected with the kids and with the youth and young adults to the point where we’ll walk you up there. Let me guide you up there, let me lead you up there to get the information to becoming a cop,” said Triplett. “With me telling this young man to be a cop or to be able to change the system, now they look at me and think, ‘I can make a difference.’”
IMPD currently has 50 recruits in its academy, 54 in field training with veteran officers and will begin a lateral transfer applicant class in December and a full recruit class next February.