Wednesday, December 8, 2010

City-County Council Committee Reapproves Straub as DPS Director

The City-County Council Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee took up several appointments and reappoints to various boards and departments this evening. Several were all grouped together and voted on as a package. What I found interesting was that Paul Page was being reappointed to the Marion County Public Defender Board. Paul Page, who is a criminal defense attorney, made headlines earlier in the year for a series of deals he struck with Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. Some alleged that those deals were very lenient and were done because of Page's and Brizzi's business relationship. They own a piece of property together in Elkhart, Indiana that is rented out to the state of Indiana. The Democrats usually jump at connecting Brizzi to Republicans, and I'm surprised no one mentioned the controversy surrounding Page.

The other major piece on the agenda was Frank Straub, who was chosen by Mayor Greg Ballard to be reappointed as director for the Department of Public Safety.

Straub testified to the council, only facing tough questions from the Democrats, most of whom weren't members of the committee. He regularly took several minutes to ramble on and on and on to answer relatively direct questions. I also felt Straub's tone with the committee sounded like he was leading a lecture at an academic institution rather than answering questions being asked by a legislative body. This is a problem that some PhD holders have. They spend so much time in academic institutions studying and talking to associates who have similar or higher degrees, and they forget that the rest of the world isn't a classroom.

Public comment was moderated by a time limit of two minutes with a buzzer that goes off after the two minutes. Fortunately, this wasn't enforced, but it was still nonetheless annoying. Surprisingly, despite the Fraternal Order of Police encouraging officers to contact their council representation and testify at committee, few chose the option to testify. A few retired officers and clergy members testified in favor of Straub. The Chief of Police, Paul Ciesielski, and one other officer testified in favor of Straub. Outside of FOP President Bill Owensby, only a few of the other members who took advantage of public comment testified against Straub.

In the crowd were several City-County Councillors and at least one At-Large candidate, Annette Johnson (D). Several members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department attended the meeting in uniform but stayed silent during public comment. Several from the Indianapolis Fire Department attended as well.

Now that I've got the reporting of the layout out of the way, here's my editorial.

Frank Straub is not a police officer. He is a director of the Department of Public Safety. His duties are basically an administrator. He handles the budgets of the respective departments, makes sure they are exchanging information with each other and ensures communication is open between the departments of the Mayor.

Despite some police scandals happening while Straub's predecessor, Scott Newman, was in charge, you didn't see Newman on television very often. In fact, you probably see Newman on TV more often NOW than you did while he was the director of DPS.

Straub has not only gone beyond his authority, but has used it to tarnish IMPD officers. Officer Jerry Piland, who was accused of brutally beating Brandon Johnson, was cleared by the Police Merit Board. The Merit Board heard over 24 hours of testimony and found that the evidence against Piland was poor and seemed like Piland acted properly. They even thought that another officer's actions were worth investigating, but their scope was narrowed to Piland's actions.

Despite the Merit Board clearing Piland of any wrongdoing, Straub was on camera the following morning convicting Piland in the media. Mayor Ballard and Chief Ciesielski made similar statements. They all said it was police brutality and he should've been fired. Oh, and Ballard and Straub didn't attend the Merit Board's meeting for a single second.

Maybe this is just me, but if your boss, the CFO and the CEO all publicly said they thought you sucked and deserve to be fired, that could create the situation for a hostile work environment. I'd talk to a lawyer about a possible slander lawsuit.

Speaking of defamation, a former IMPD assistant chief is planning to sue over his demotion. He claims the treatment of Straub and others violated his civil rights, caused him to lose income, and humiliated him.

My gut is telling me that the tug-of-war between the rank-and-file/FOP and Straub isn't so much Straub's ideas are bad. But he comes off as very arrogant and seems to charge into situations shooting first and not asking questions. This can be seen perfectly in the situation with Officer Piland. Straub stuck by the original report (which really seemed bad for Piland)despite that evidence, over time, pans out and evolves. After the original report was completed, additional evidence was gathered that simply didn't support the original police report's conclusion. And Straub's failure to adapt to the evidence is just simple arrogance.

I was talking to someone at the meeting and I told them I come from the world of politics. And there's two schools of thought when it comes to the two-party system. You can change from within and support who you like and be part of the big tent, or you can leave the two party system and basically have very little influence on the political landscape.

The situation with Straub is that Straub is on the outside trying to change a body that he isn't a member of. I suspect if Chief Ciesielski was the one pushing these changes, we wouldn't be seeing half of this tug-of-war that we're currently seeing.


  1. Interesting that the parking meters in front of the CCB on Market have been bagged for most of the week, without any apparent reason, or signs of use. With the exception of one school bus on Thursday for 3 hours. Otherwise I wonder if they were bagged to provide parking for officers to attend the committee hearing?

  2. Anon 12:43, I spend a lot of time at the CCB and the fact is, most of those IMPD or Sheriff's vehicles would be there regardless of the bagging. I don't think many of the uniformed LEOs there were there in support of Straub anyway (though several of the identifiable IFD likely were)

  3. And as to specifically about bagging parking meters and political events, it's really hard to track down who is exactly in charge. It's something I wish I could learn more about, but I don't have the resources to do so.


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