Marion County sheriff expects arrests to drop when he halts jail transportation

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INDIANAPOLIS — During the first six months of 2021, more than 13,000 people were arrested by IMPD.

Most of them were transported to jail by Marion County Sheriffs deputies.

Sheriff Kerry Forestal expects that number to drop a bit once his deputies quit driving prisoners to the new county jail in the Twin Aire community and police officers in Indianapolis, as well as throughout Marion County, have to transport anyone they arrest to jail themselves.

“I think that may change some people who have made it too easy to arrest somebody,” said Forestal, “like if somebody’s been in an accident and they find they may have a four year old suspended-while-driving warrant and they want to serve it, well, that agency will now be responsible to maintain security.”

In a cost-cutting move that coincides with the relocation of the Marion County Sheriffs Office and Jail to the new Community Justice Center, Forestal’s deputies will no longer transport arrestees as of 6 a.m. Jan. 1, putting the responsibility back on the departments of the officers making the arrests.

Forestal said he won’t be staffing the detention center at Eskenazi Hospital either, where an average of six to 10 inmates and arrestees are typically under the supervision of sheriff’s deputies.

“The people who work at Eskenazi and the people who work on those wagons will be working here that day,” said Forestal during an interview in his new office at the CJC. “They can’t be both places. I’ve got over a hundred openings.”

IMPD has openings, too, as it’s currently 100 officers below its authorized strength and Mayor Joe Hogsett has set aside enough money to hire 100 more officers than that in 2022.

Those officers serving a diminished police force will find even more opportunities to make extra pay in the coming year as IMPD takes over the transportation of its own arrestees.

“There are definitely going to be some significant adjustments that have to be made,” said Deputy Chief Josh Barker, “and that includes spending overtime dollars to cover that gap because, again, our primary goal, and what we feel our primary responsibility, is to the citizens of Indianapolis, is to not take a sworn officer off of a beat assignment answering calls for service just to transport prisoners.”

Barker also said a public service officer recruit class has just begun to augment the dozen or so current PSOs who will be called on to drive the six jail wagons IMPD has inherited from the sheriff.

He agrees that officers may make fewer arrests as a result of the shifting of transportation responsibilities.

“In general terms, officers can exercise that discretion,” said Barker, “and if it is an offense that is summonsable, then they will have the opportunity to forgo the custodial arrest in the interest of time so they are not pulled away from their patrolling responsibilities.”

Police commanders in Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport, Speedway and Cumberland are continuing discussions to determine how their officers will also transport arrestees and provide security for injured offenders admitted to hospitals.

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