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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Exposing Corruption in the Ranks

Exposing corruption in the ranks
The EDITORIAL - June 3, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - Temptation and opportunity are perpetual hazards to integrity in police work, and local law enforcement has seen risk become reality too often over the years. Former Detectives Jason Edwards and Robert Long, on trial in U.S. District Court this week, are among nine Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers arrested or convicted in the past 13 months. And not every scandal has involved arrests. The department is still trying to come to terms with the revelation that 51 officers moonlighted at a metal recycling company that was raided early this year in a probe into stolen metal. Just to make things messier, the owner of a rival company, on trial for buying stolen goods, accused an IMPD officer who worked for his competitor of making him a target. For Mayor Greg Ballard, who has given public safety top priority and has placed himself at the top of the police chain of command, corruption in the ranks is especially troublesome. Banishing it altogether may prove impossible; but the task will require more initiative than Ballard and Police Chief Michael Spears have exhibited thus far. Only after the spate of arrests did IMPD launch an "integrity plan" calling for closer supervision of detectives, tighter scrutiny of evidence, performance evaluations and reinstatement of lie detector tests. Where were those basics when Edwards, Long and former officer James Davis (who already has pleaded guilty) were allegedly making a side career of stealing, taking bribes and joining the drug trade they were sworn to fight? Edwards and Long face a mountain of government evidence, and the feds say they committed much more mischief than the indictment covers. Worse yet, strong hints have been given that rogue activity by other cops will come out in the trial. Spears insists the department is committed to eradicating crooked conduct; but the effectiveness of the integrity plan remains unproven. Meanwhile, the mayor has had little to say. Also, the troubling issue of second jobs for police officers awaits resolution. While IMPD placed some restrictions on moonlighting in the wake of the OmniSource recycling affair (still before a grand jury), the possibility of conflict has not gone away. City-County Council member Vernon Brown, author of a city ordinance to govern the matter, has waited with fraying patience for the police brass and union to offer their input, inasmuch as they objected to his original plan. "Something needs to be done," Brown says. "And no one has the fortitude to come up with something." No one? Not even at the top?

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