Monday, February 23, 2009

Police Raid Scrap Metal Business Where 51 IMPD Officers Worked Off-Duty

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies raided the City's largest scrap metal business, Omni Source, on suspicion the business may have been knowingly purchasing stolen metal products. What is particularly alarming about today's raid is the Star's Vic Ryckaert's report that as many as 51 IMPD officers have been employed part-time by Omni Source to provide security for the company's six locations. Ryckaert writes:

OmniSource employs 51 IMPD officers to run security at its yards in Marion County. Chief Michael Spears on Monday suspended those work permits. It was unclear whether any IMPD officers are implicated in the investigation.

The company's practice of hiring off-duty officers "causes us a great deal of concern," Spears said. Among the officers employed by OmniSource are Maj. David Allender, commander of the north district, and south district Detective Jason Prendergast, the department's chief investigator of scrap metal thefts.

"Each one of these work permits will be evaluated," Spears said.

Spears on Monday barred officers from working part-time jobs at OmniSource. Prendergast was reassigned from investigating metal thefts. Spears declined to talk about details of the investigation, saying it has been placed in the hands of detectives with the prosecutor's grand jury division.

Ironically, IMPD Chief Spears' off-duty work providing security for the Indianapolis Colts raised concerns in the past that Colts' players may have been receiving special treatment from the police department. Spears' predecessor also worked security for the Colts at the same time law enforcement agencies were probing Colts' owner Jim Irsay for prescription drug fraud. That probe got swept under the rug. I've raised concerns about police powers being used in connection with security services off-duty IMPD officers were providing the National Institute for Sports and Fitness.

Will this probe bring about changes in IMPD's policies? Perhaps. "This investigation is extremely important," said IMPD Major Chris Boomershine. "This is a very large company." Boomershine declined to comment on how high in the organization the probe will reach. "I believe you could see some changes in how business is done in Marion County and Indianapolis," Boomershine said. I'm sure Major Boomershine is sincere in that belief. It's just that I've seen these types of probes wind up in the garbage after the prosecutor's office makes a half-assed attempt to prosecute a few low-level types before it moves on to something else, leaving those most responsible for the wrongdoing completely unscathed.

Anyone have any word on the media blackout on why City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman was moved out of the Major's job in charge of investigations at IMPD a few months back, a job to which Scott Newman promoted him less than a year ago, and replaced by the imminently more qualified Boomershine? Inquiring minds want to know.

UPDATE: The Star's story quotes a spokesman for the company, Vice President Ben Eisbart. Eisbart is a former Fort Wayne school board member and Democratic member of the Fort Wayne City Council before being defeated by now-Senate President Pro Tempore David Long. “We want to see that justice is done,” Eisbart said. “This is a total surprise,” Eisbart said, noting employees who knowingly purchase stolen goods are fired. “We don’t tolerate that. That goes against everything we believe in.” Omni Source has contributed nearly $20,000 to state and local candidates over the past several years, including former Governor Frank O'Bannon, Governor Joe Kernan, Governor Mitch Daniels, Attorney General Greg Zoeller, Sen. David Long, Sen. Jean Breaux, State Reps. David Wolkins, Win Moses and Randy Borror. The Fort Wayne-based company was acquired by Steel Dynamics, a publicly-traded company, a couple of years ago. The company was originally founded by the Rifkin family of Fort Wayne.

Here's an interesting item. Awhile back, a person who works on assisting ex-offenders in re-entering the workforce after completing their jail sentences explained to me a serious problem with our community corrections program. Community corrections is a sort of half-way house before complete freedom. In order to participate in the community corrections program rather than spend the balance of their terms in prison, the ex-offenders are required to pay a weekly fee, which many cannot afford to pay. According to this source, some of the ex-offenders were stealing copper and other scrap metal anywhere they could find it in order to sell it to scrap metal dealers to pay for the cost of the community corrections program. Ironically, the City boasts about ex-offenders' participation in a program locally that recycles computer parts. "According to the Office of Sustainability, more than 143,000 pounds of electronics were recycled as part of the effort that pairs SustainIndy with Workforce, Inc., the city's ex-offender re-entry initiative that hires ex-offenders to collect and process electronics for recycling," Nuvo reports in its most recent edition in a story discussing e-cycling legislation proposed by State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan (D-Indianapolis).

5 comments:

varangianguard said...

I would like to know just where each of those 51 IMPD officers came from prior to the IPD-MCSD merger.
Outside (new hire)?
MCSD?
IPD?
Is there a pattern?

Maybe it's nothing, still I wonder?

spooknp said...

I would like to state that I know of two accounts where an IMPD officer working off-duty at Omni Source did in fact start two investigations of scrap theft. I can't say what the other officers did, but I do know that there are public case files out there (at least two) where one officer was trying to do his job (even working off-duty) to stop scrap theft.

varangianguard said...

Well, this whole case originated somewhere. One might hope it was from one (at least) of the 51 officers working there.

Patriot Paul said...

It wouldn't surprise me if these people were polygraph challenged. I'd love to have a picture whether they used city patrol cars and citizen's gas to go to these off-duty jobs.

garyj said...

I would like to know just where each of those 51 IMPD officers came from prior to the IPD-MCSD merger.
Outside (new hire)?
MCSD?
IPD?
Is there a pattern?

Maybe it's nothing, still I wonder?



I know 5 officers that worked there. 2 former county, 3 former IPD. OmniSurce paid them fairly well, but not an amount worth "looking the other way"