Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Straub Draws Ire Of IMPD
Ballard and Newman stumbled badly by some of their early management decisions, including keeping Mike Spears as chief and putting Lincoln Plowman, a City-County Councilor, in charge of investigations. Plowman was later quietly transferred out of that position to an administrative job without any fanfare. IMPD got a big black eye when it was revealed that close to 50 police officers were moonlighting for a scrap metal dealer suspected of purchasing stolen materials. After Newman abruptly left the administration last summer, citing health concerns, Ballard brought in an outsider, Frank Straub, a former New York City Police Department administrator and public safety director for a smaller, suburban New York city. Straub had just been forced out of his job in White Plains, New York after feuding with the city council over work hours for police and firefighters. Council members claimed Straub had defied the policies they enacted. Straub claimed he saved taxpayers money.
No sooner had Straub been on the job than Lincoln Plowman came under investigation by the FBI for allegedly accepting bribes and was forced out of his job. Soon thereafter, Straub and Ballard announced a shake-up in the management of IMPD. Spears was out as chief and in was Paul Ciesielski, a long-time respected member of the force. Things appeared to be heading in the right direction until Straub started meddling and exercising more control over the department. That brings us to the current day where sources cite growing conflict between Straub and IMPD management and rank-and-file police officers. FOP's leadership is openly feuding with Straub and some are predicting that a new four-year contract proposed by the administration is doomed to rejection by the police union, in part, due to strained relations between police and Straub and some of the plans he is currently implementing that are discussed below.
One source is now describing Straub as "out of control." Without consulting Chief Cieselski, Straub announced he planned to promote an old Spears' protege', Cliff Myers, to the position of Assistant Chief. In that role, Straub planned to make Myers responsible for patrol operations and criminal investigations. Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce, Deputy Chief Ronald Hicks and Deputy Chief Bill Benjamin were reportedly outraged by Myers' promotion according to a well-placed source. Straub planned to move Spears to the Commander's position that Myers would vacate in the Southeast District after his promotion.Straub also planned to demote Pierce to a token position in charge of Youth Services. Adding more fuel to the fire, Straub ordered all appointed IMPD management officials to cease direct communications with Mayor Ballard and forbade them from visiting the 25th floor of the City-County Building where Ballard's office is located.
Critics complain that Straub wasted taxpayers money remodeling the public safety offices and by purchasing new badges fashioned after similar badges used in New York for the homeland security division. A source says the paranoid Straub is implementing plans to more closely monitor all phone and computer communications within public safety, and to create a secret unit in the department to investigate fraudulent disability retirements. Straub is also reaching further to impede communications with the media. Straub’s Chief of Staff, Carolin Requiz-Smith, who has tagged along with Ballard and his wife on several overseas junkets and who some complain can barely speak English, is the author of a media blackout policy that prohibits anyone in public safety from commenting to the media unless they receive prior approval from Straub or a member of his staff.
Another new reorganization plan within IMPD's operations has many long-time detectives with the department upset. Chief Ciesielski announced this week that the centralized crime unit in which detectives specializing in aggravated assault, robbery, organized crime, vehicle thefts, juvenile and financial crimes are assigned will be dissolved. This plan will move 65 detectives from the central crime unit to five of the six policing districts. The detectives would be assigned to cases currently assigned to those districts, plus continue investigations on all of their current caseload. Supposedly the new organization is aimed at addressing property crimes committed in the respective districts. According to a source, neither the prosecutor's office nor the juvenile justice system were consulted about this move in advance. Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores is reportedly upset with the move. Others are concerned that no thought was given to the training the detectives might need in investigating a wide variety of crimes different from what they had been tasked with investigating in the central office. Nonetheless, this plan is set to be implemented the first week of September.
An observer notes that while the units in the crime branch handling financial, organized crime and vehicle theft investigations are being dissolved, the Cyber Crimes unit will remain intact. Chief Paul Ciesielski's wife, Donna, works in that unit. The affected detectives at IMPD are reportedly outraged about their new assignments. A source says FOP President Bill Owensby confronted Straub during a telephone conversation this week about this latest move, which reportedly ended after a flurry of expletives flew on both ends of the conversation. Plans are also in the works according to a source to further restrict take-home car privileges for police officers, a move that is likely to set off another firestorm.
Some police officers complain about Straub's petulence about the manner in which he is addressed. Officers who make the mistake of addressing him as Director Straub are immediately corrected and told they are to address him as Dr. Straub. Not many people with Phds insist on being addressed as doctors, but it's apparently a big deal to Straub. Members of the news media have been regularly referring to him as Dr. Straub rather than Director Straub as well.
Finally, there are also reports that Straub has tasked his deputy director, Jon Mayes, with fashioning a new gun ban ordinance that might pass constitutional scrutiny, especially as it applies to public property and parks. Gun rights activists were already distrustful of Straub when Ballard announced his appointment because of his support of gun ban laws in the past. At the rate he is going, Ballard is likely to be as unpopular with the police as his predecessor was when he sought re-election in 2007. And we all know how that race ended.