Indy public safety director to step down

INDIANAPOLIS, IN &#8211 Embattled Public Safety Director Frank Straub submitted his resignation Friday, ending a tumultuous reign in which his reform efforts were met with frequent resistance even as the police department was embroiled in scandal.

Straub gave Mayor Greg Ballard his letter of resignation this morning, asserting that the Public Safety Department “has accomplished its mission and much more.”

“He told the mayor he thought it was the best for the future of IMPD (the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department) to move on,” said Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Ballard.

Ballard urged Straub, and the director agreed, to stay on until Aug. 1 to oversee the transition to a new public safety director. Lotter said Straub would have input on the selection.

“The mayor would be crazy not to use Dr. Straub’s expertise on this matter,” Lotter said.

Ballard would not be making any comments on the resignation Friday, Lotter said.
Until the new public safety director is in place, interim Police Chief Rick Hite will remain in office.

“Then it is up to the new director to decide if he wants to keep him there,” Lotter said.
Hite replaced Paul Ciesielski, who resigned April 16 after a crucial piece of evidence in a pending trial involving a police officer was misplaced.

Straub hired Hite away from the Baltimore Police Department to be a deputy director in September, 2010.

The Fraternal Order of Police has been at odds with Straub since the director came here firm White Plains, N.Y. in January 2010 and pressure for him to resign reached crescendo recently.

Some council members who he once considered allies had indicated displeasure with him and a group of former Indianapolis police chiefs and a former sheriff called for his resignation last week.

The former chiefs were upset by comments Straub made following Ciesielski’s departure that the department has been scandal-plagued for decades.

In an interview this afternoon, Straub said he had been thinking about leaving “for awhile.”

“You wake up one day and decide that’s it, it’s time to move on,” Straub said.

But he claimed neither the FOP nor the pressure from the City-County Council forced him to resign.

“The union criticism has been constant and caustic and and it reached such a point of ridiculousness that it didn’t bother me that much,” he said.

The grillings before the council he said “are part of governing.”

“I respect the council for showing how much they care for this city and how seriously they take their jobs,” Straub said.

Straub said his next job would likely be in public safety. “It’s a calling” he said. But he said he would also entertain offers from academia and the private sector. He would not comment on any job offers or interviews.

“You’ve got to have a thick skin in this business. I think I have that,” Straub said.

Of the FOP, Straub said: “One small group of people have monopolized all the conversation about public safety to the detriment of everyone else.”

“Clearly this small group of people did not want an outsider coming in and they have not vacillated from that,” Straub said.

The police union issued a statement Friday expressing satisfaction with the resignation.

“Obviously, our membership is supportive of the Mayor’s announcement regarding the transition within the Department of Public Safety,” FOP President Bill Owensby, who is out-of-town, said in the statement. “However, many questions still exist especially as they relate to Directors Straub’s replacement. “

City-County Council President Maggie Lewis, a Democrat who has been among Straub’s critics, said the resignation still took her off-guard.

“I am very surprised. I didn’t see it coming,” she said. ‘I always was told that the administration supports Dr. Straub, so I was prepared to continue the conversation” going on now within a council committee that’s been reviewing Straub’s reappointment.

Straub’s 2 1/2 page resignation letter listed several of his accomplishments, including a revamping of the police academy to include ethic and cultural sensitivity training.

Straub also created a community affairs division; put into place a new police patrol strategy; set up a Youth Violence Reduction Team; opened a new communications center; and revamped the internal affairs office.

“There is much more work to be done now and in the future,” Straub said in his resignation letter. “The city of Indianapolis must be committed to moving the Department forward, addressing systematic weaknesses … restoring public trust and confidence, improving morale and ensuring the safety of our officers and the community we serve.”

Straub oversaw the firings or suspensions of more than two dozen officers for alleged law-breaking, malfeasance or violations of department policy.

The most controversial disciplinary matter involved officer David Bisard, who struck three motorcycles with his police car, killing one and critically injuring two, on Aug. 6, 2010.

Bisard is on suspension and awaiting trial on charges of faces reckless homicide and criminal recklessness charges. Police and prosecutor’s allege he was drunk when he hit the bikers.

IMPD officers were also criticized for repeatedly striking a 15-year-old boy in 2010 while making a misdemeanor arrest. All the officers were cleared by a civilian review board.

And a police lieutenant went to federal prison on charges that he tried to solicit a bribe to set up favorable zoning for a strip club.

From The Indianapolis Star.

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