The decrease in officers -- from 1,641 last year to 1,626 -- put the department below the target number required by a federal grant and is prompting a creative move to bolster the figures.
Next year, the city will count 18 park rangers as part of the police force.
"We should have counted them all along," Department of Public Safety Director Frank Straub said Tuesday. "It was an oversight on our part."
However, the move drew a sharp response from Kennedy, deputy mayor for economic development under Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson, who lost to Ballard.
Ballard, a Republican, campaigned four years ago with the slogan of making public safety "Job One" and has touted his crime-fighting record recently as he gears up for another election.
Kennedy criticized IMPD manpower levels under Ballard's administration. "When the mayor campaigned four years ago, he promised to add 750 police officers," she said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference on the Monon Trail at 16th Street. "But now we learn that there are not enough officers to cover our beats."
Kyle Walker, a spokesman for the Marion County Republican Party, said Ballard would have liked to have hired 750 more police officers but that "the previous administration so mismanaged the city that it left us with a big hole."
"The mayor had to do what he could with the resources available," Walker said. "Considering all the financial restraints, I think the mayor's record on crime is one of the great success stories."
The number of police officers is down because IMPD hasn't had enough recruit classes in recent years to make up for the loss of officers through retirements and resignations.As I noted above, one of the biggest financial problems facing the city when Ballard took office was dealing with that half billion dollars in pension debt. As a trade off for raising the state sales tax one percentage point, the state took over that debt, freeing up at least $20 million a year in the budget that would have otherwise been spent on pension liability. What has become clear is that simply keeping the police numbers at the level they were when Ballard took office has rested on unanticipated federal grant dollars that have provided funding for 50 new police officers. Ballard's administration is also now counting park rangers as cops, which has never been done in the past to bolster its numbers. One of the reasons more police haven't been hired is because Ballard agreed to higher pay for police officers at a time when salaries for most government employees were being frozen because of severe budget constraints. The Star provides the staffing level of police officers since he became mayor. Notice the numbers didn't really tick up until the federal dollars started flowing to fund 50 new positions:
|Year||Number of officers|