INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion County sheriff’s office is planning to end certain services it provides to “excluded cities” within the county.
The sheriff’s department has always provided jail transport and security at the Eskenazi detention unit for people arrested by officers in Southport, Lawrence, Speedway, Beech Grove, Cumberland. But, once the new year hits Marion County sheriff Kerry Forestal says those services will be halted.
City and police department leaders in these excluded cities say that this is a bad idea and that they will have a tough time handling criminals if the sheriff continues to follow through with this plan.
“Right now, we have one officer on the street in Southport,” said Southport Police Chief Thomas Vaughn. “So, if he had to go down and sit in Eskenazi, then we’d have to start making phone calls, trying to find somebody to come in.”
“Until we get some kind of promise from the sheriff’s office that transport will be restored, we are going to struggle,” added Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier.
Forestal says that the Marion County Sheriff’s Department can no longer provide services that take arrestees to jail or to Eskenazi because of staffing issues at the county jail with more and more inmates being held and the need for bodies to staff the transition to the Community Justice Campus in Indianapolis. He says if police departments want to arrest someone they are now responsible for security in transporting that person to where they need to be.
Lawrence police chief David Hofmann says this will take more officers off city streets in Lawrence and other excluded cities while officers escort an arrested person.
“Those who remain will take runs and will be coming from further away, most likely, and with less backup officers,” Hofmann said. “I think all of our residents can expect longer response times.”
Forestal has said that ending these services will result in fewer arrests, meaning that officers in excluded cities will exercise more discretion and will be more choosey over whether to arrest someone. Beech Grove police chief Ben Mercuri says that doesn’t make sense.
“The sheriff himself has said that this will result in less arrests,” Mercuri said. “Is that what we want? Discretion is always a part of that job, but when it says ‘you shall arrest’ then that’s what we should do.”
City leaders and police departments in these excluded cities all agree that they expect to see a spike in crime if Forestal ends jail transport services. Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley says that if this is carried out then the county should return taxpayer money to excluded cities that have paid for jail transport services.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has come out against Forestal’s decision to end jail transport services. In a statement, the mayor said “the County will continue to cover the medical costs of any person subject to lawful detention and will also mitigate the cost to the excluded cities and IMPD of the arrestee transportation and staffing the detention unit at Eskenazi Health [by making] funds from the County’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) Fiscal Recovery Funds (FRF) available for overtime of police officers in the excluded cities and towns as well as IMPD for calendar year 2022.”