A contract dispute is driving a wedge between the Indianapolis Metro Police Department and the man who oversees it.If Straub still thinks this is just a couple of people in leadership at the FOP stirring up this conflict in the wake of tonight's overwhelming vote against the four-year police contract proposed by the Ballard administration, then he is even further disconnected from what is taking place within IMPD than some of his worst critics contend he is. "This is somebody who has decided to say that the mayor and I were going to take cars away from the police officers or further restrict them is categorically untrue," Straub told Chapman. He tells her he is trying to "clear up some of the misinformation he says is spreading to officers." "What they're doing now is trying to use the contract as way to hold change hostage. Change is going to happen," Straub promised.
In a 13 Investigates report, the new public safety director defends a decision to disband several specialized investigative units and the rank and file deliver a vote of protest.
Standing together, IMPD's rank and file hoped to send a loud message to the city wrapped in silence at FOP headquarters Thursday . . .
But behind the badge, officers on the job are fuming over a plan revealed Monday to disband some specialized investigative units like robbery, burglary and auto theft and assigning those 65 or so detectives to district beats.
Depending on the need, those investigators could be ordered back to the street. Officers tell 13 Investigates it's a contract violation.
"It doesn't violate anything," countered Public Safety Director Frank Straub. On the job since January, he says the plan would give district commanders the additional resources they have been asking for while streamlining services for residents.
It comes at a time when a traumatized city aches from deadly violence.
"Do you need a stalemate with the FOP and the rank and file?" 13 Investigates asked Straub.
"I'm not causing the stalemate," he replied. "This is something one or two people have taken and are now spinning out of control, in all honesty," said the director.
Straub won't name names. But it's clear his fight is at the top at the FOP.
I'm told that pay is not the issue for the vast majority of officers. They are simply upset at the changes Straub is forcing through without due consideration to the consequences his changes are having. For example, I'm told a number of federal grant funds could be jeopardized as a result of the specialized crime units Straub plans to disband next month. That has not only police detectives angry, but also the prosecutors and juvenile justice system employees who work closely with these specialized units.
Police officers say Straub has effectively neutered Chief Paul Ciesielski and his management team with his big power grab and has distanced the IMPD leadership from Mayor Ballard and his top staff. Straub has turned into a big media whore as of late after cutting off other IMPD personnel's access to the media. Detectives investigating Monday night's shooting spree that left two dead and eight persons shot at a neighborhood barbecue on the City's northwestside believe Straub may have compromised their investigation by shooting off his mouth during an interview with WIBC's Steve Simpson yesterday morning. Straub told Simpson the shooter had been identified by detectives working on the case. I'm told homicide detectives are furious over Straub's loose lips, which they fear have caused some potential witnesses to clam up and may have caused other critical evidence in the case to be destroyed.
Straub sure has had an impact since assuming the helm of the Public Safety Department. I'm not sure it's the kind of impact Ballard anticipated when he chose the outsider for the position. Yet many people believe Ballard has supported the expanded role of Straub in order to distance himself from the job he wanted so badly when he ran for mayor in 2007--to make public safety job one and to be solely accountable for the City's policing efforts.
UPDATE: Here's more on the media whore side to Straub. "When I walked into Straub's office Wednesday, a copy of the morning newspaper sat on his desk. The headline at the top of the front page -- "Mass Tragedy, Again" -- said it all, " Matt Tully writes. "Straub had asked me to come to his office to talk about the things the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is doing to fight crime and to more proactively prevent it." "For starters, he handed me several pages of statistics showing signs of progress." Unfortunately, Tully missed the whole story that has been unfolding this week over the meltdown in relations between Straub and IMPD. Tully should have followed up his visit to Straub's office with a sit down with some real police officers before writing this column.