"Imagine if a sweeping change restructured the city-county representative system and made all twenty-five district representatives, at-large representatives instead."
We all agree, most citizens in Indiana/Indianapolis do not want a police state; one that is overrun with idle law enforcement officers draining public funds and being overly aggressive in enforcing the lesser points of the law in order to justify their jobs. That is not at all what tax payers are looking for. On the other hand, we do want a reasonably staffed local police department, because, an understaffed law enforcement agency is dangerous to the officers and ineffective for general public safety. But, who determines what is reasonable? Does a police Chief get to define what is reasonable police staffing? Do local district commanders get to decide and define reasonable staffing levels? No and no. We citizens define what a reasonably staffed police department is. Communities, their leaders, their city-county representatives must all participate in defining what a reasonably staffed police force is. The alternative allows the Mayor and his out of touch staff to define it, unchallenged.
In order to be influential in advocating for a reasonably strong police force, citizens first need to understand the nature of law enforcement and their duties, to appropriately frame the issue. Just complaining about a short staffed police department is not going to cut it. The quick and stock response will be that local government is doing more with less; and who doesn't want that? Fiscal responsibility is an attribute lacking with the current Indianapolis mayor. So, while his spending habits fail his Republican name, we don't want to give him an open door to falsely suggest that he is being fiscally responsible by pressuring our police department to function below adequate staffing levels.
What must a police force be?
The Supreme Court has ruled that a law enforcement agency does not have a duty to protect individual citizens from particular harm inflicted by another person. The government and law enforcement agencies only have a duty to protect the public in general; and not necessarily the duty to protect citizens from harm, but specifically, to protect our constitutional rights as citizens. For clarification, laws are essentially rules intended to promote the standard found in the U.S. Constitution. That is what law enforcement agencies are concerned with; they protect our constitutional rights through the enforcement of the laws representing those constitutional rights.
Therefore, individuals have a responsibility to protect their own interests. But in order to do this responsibly and effectively with fewer unpredictable outcomes, a police force must first be capable of fostering a “general environment of public safety.” This is, in fact, the key function of a police force: to promote and facilitate a general environment of public safety. I can point to several infamous, out of control, riots and readily contrast that environment with one of general public safety. We have no difficulty identify when public safety has failed, but it is not as easy to discern when it has succeeded. This is especially true when different standards are used to judge success or failure. These are the crossroads that Indianapolis communities and the City of Indianapolis are at right now.
Mayor Ballard has allowed the IMPD staffing level to dwindle below an acceptable level to meet its requirement to foster a general environment of public safety. According to anonymous sources, when the issue is addressed, the rank and file are just being told that staffing levels meet officer safety standards. I don't know if that is true or not or if the concept of officer safety can even be quantified. But let me interpose.
We citizens certainly do care about the safety of the officers that patrol our streets, but officers know the risks and they accept them. What citizens don't accept is a mayor refusing to staff the police force to such a level that it fosters an environment of general public safety; the mayors constitutional obligation. Mayor Ballard and his staff may think they are being crafty by telling IMPD officers that staffing levels are fine in terms of officer safety, but that is not the standard that we citizens expect. Our standard is "general public safety", not officer safety. We don't know what officer safety is about; that is an inside, trade skill concern. But we know exactly what general public safety is about. That is not being met.
Since the adoption of the zone policing model the problems in staffing and response times have worsened. The zone policing model seems designed to conceal manpower shortage better than the beat policing model did. Although denied by high ranking officials, it certainly seems plausible. There is no logical way to take the same geographical area, fewer officers, reassign them to larger patrol areas and call it good policing; even if micro-management of smaller areas are being performed (which I am told they are). I spoke with several officers who collectively told me "now, under the zone policing model, we line up like taxi drivers waiting for the next run to be dispatched. Previously, under the beat policing model, they continued, at least one officer was within a few blocks of every dispatched run, but that is no longer the case." Thus, longer distances are now being traveled (wear and tear on vehicles), resulting in increased response times to calls for service (leaving larger areas unattended.) This may meet "officer safety standards" but it does not promote an environment of "general public safety"; the mayors constitutional obligation.
If you are not familiar with the zone policing model that IMPD executives put in place over the last year or so, it basically took smaller geographic areas in which single officers were assigned to, erased the boundaries and now assigns "a group" of officers to the new, larger, general area. In contrast, under the beat model policing, particular officers were responsible for a smaller, assigned area; all 911 dispatches, crime trends, patrolling, etc. were shouldered by the assigned officer. Which officer is responsible for a particular area now? If three or four officers are assigned to a zone, which one of them is responsible and for what are they responsible? Are all of them responsible for everything? How does that work? Nothing good ever comes from a working collectivism theory; including a policing model.
Consider this scenario: Currently Indianapolis residents are represented by twenty-five city-county councilors and four at-large councilors. Imagine if a sweeping change restructured the city-county representative system and made all twenty-five district representatives, at-large representatives instead. No more 10th District, 4th District, 11th District, 22nd District and so on. Alternatively, we would have twenty-nine at-large, city-county councilors. Who would be responsible for my area? Who would be responsible for your area? Would the now 14th District councilor be able to represent the now 16th District problems if their "taxi line" put them next in line to represent? What happens if one councilor isn’t motivated to perform and leaves the heavy work for the others? That is exactly the circumstance IMPD officers now find themselves in.
The function of law enforcement is to foster a general environment of public safety. A model that allows for quick response and the manpower to expand and reduce enforcement strategies without a reduction in general services.
The criminal element must also be aware of and experience the commanding resources of law enforcement. But because of the public nature of government services, everyone including criminals knows about the manpower shortage and the new zone model policing, with its inherent weakness. It wouldn't take much thought to figure out how to exploit the system; to tie up resources in one area in order to criminalize another.
I encourage you to contact your city-county councilor and ask them to monitor what is going on in their districts in regard to these issues; especially if you personally experience something similar. Tell them to speak with the officers that patrol their districts and ask question; even if off the record. Demand that they take the initiative; they live alongside you and have as much of an interest as you do in good policing. Don’t contact the local police captain or commander; make it a public issue through your district representative.
7/15/05 SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES No. 04-278 TOWN OF CASTLE ROCK, COLORADO, PETITIONER v. JESSICA GONZALES, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT BEST FRIEND OF HER DECEASED MINOR CHILDREN, REBECCA GONZALES, KATHERYN GONZALES, AND LESLIE GONZALES
On June 27, in the case of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, the Supreme Court found that Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to individual police protection even in the presence of a restraining order. Mrs. Gonzales' husband with a track record of violence, stabbing Mrs. Gonzales to death, Mrs. Gonzales' family could not get the Supreme Court to change their unanimous decision for one's individual protection. YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN FOLKS AND GOVERNMENT BODIES ARE REFUSING TO PASS THE Safety Ordinance.
(1) Richard W. Stevens. 1999. Dial 911 and Die. Hartford, Wisconsin: Mazel Freedom Press.
(2) Barillari v. City of Milwaukee, 533 N.W.2d 759 (Wis. 1995).
(3) Bowers v. DeVito, 686 F.2d 616 (7th Cir. 1982).
(4) DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989).
(5) Ford v. Town of Grafton, 693 N.E.2d 1047 (Mass. App. 1998).
(6) Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (D.C. 1981).
"...a government and its agencies are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen..." -Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (D.C. App. 1981)
(7) "What makes the City's position particularly difficult to understand is that, in conformity to the dictates of the law, Linda did not carry any weapon for self-defense. Thus by a rather bitter irony she was required to rely for protection on the City of NY which now denies all responsibility to her."
Riss v. New York, 22 N.Y.2d 579,293 N.Y.S.2d 897, 240 N.E.2d 806 (1958).
(8) "Law enforcement agencies and personnel have no duty to protect individuals from the criminal acts of others; instead their duty is to preserve the peace and arrest law breakers for the protection of the general public."
Lynch v. N.C. Dept. of Justice, 376 S.E. 2nd 247 (N.C. App. 1989)