Agency struggles with internal investigations E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

It’s been a rough ride for the Indianapolis Police department recently and there’s no indication things are going to get better anytime soon. Residents from all corners of the city turned out recently for a public meeting. The event took place just a day after the announcement that the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department mishandled evidence in the case of a suspended police officer who crashed his squad car into a group of motorcyclists while he may have been drunk.

This is the second public admission from the agency that it mishandled evidence in the controversial case.

The message residents had for officials was simple- they want the police department and its leaders to be held accountable.

"This is just over-the-top disgusting," Indianapolis resident Wilson Allen, 70, told reporters with the Indianapolis Star. Allen has lived in the Downtown Indianapolis area for 40 years.

"We need the police. We need them to be good. We need them to be competent. But if they can't even keep track of critical evidence like that, that's pitiful."

Paul Ciesielski has since resigned as chief of police but has stayed with the department as a captain.

Now others are calling for the resignation of Ciesielski’s boss, Public Safety Director Frank Straub.

Mary Mills, who along with her husband, Kurt Weekly, was severely injured in the crash, said the city and the police are not taking responsibility for the botched investigation.

The couple's friend, 30-year-old Eric Wells, was killed in the crash.

"Every single one of (the people involved)," she said during a news conference Wednesday, "they have some sort of responsibility."

Prosecutors discovered recently that one of two tubes containing the blood of suspended police officer David Bisard was moved to an unrefrigerated storage area despite a judge's order to preserve it.

The other vial, which was tested and indicated that Bisard was drunk the day of the crash, is still usable in court.

The FBI will investigate what led to the mishandling of Bisard's blood, and the people involved could face criminal charges.

"IMPD must undergo critical operational changes and stop the game of musical chairs with the chain of command," said the Rev. Stephen J. Clay of the Messiah Missionary Baptist Church.

At the recent Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee meeting, several City-Council members hammered Straub with questions about the mishandling of Bisard's blood.

Straub is up for a one-year reappointment, and the committee and the City-County Council can weigh in on whether he keeps his job.

Councilman Frank Mascari was particularly blunt.

"Why is it that everybody at IMPD is accountable for their actions but you?" He added: "Every time something goes wrong, it seems like you throw somebody under the bus," Mascari said, followed by applause from the audience.

Straub responded by saying that reform of IMPD is a long process. It's been a struggle “for decades,” he said.

That didn’t sit well with other public safety officials in the area.

"How can somebody come to our city and in two years label us corrupt?" former Indianapolis Police Department Chief Jerry Barker asked. Straub, a New Yorker, was hired in January 2010.

Former Sheriff Jack Cottey went further. He said Straub's comments "made me sick."

"He should move on," Cottey said. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing."

And the Fraternal Order of Police, which has also been critical of Straub, claimed that at least eight other former chiefs and deputy chiefs felt the same way.

Current FOP President Bill Owensby also was critical of Ciesielski, who he said was a weak leader.

"Our internal surveys have shown for two straight years that confidence in the executive leadership, from the chief on up, has nose-dived," Owensby told Star reporters.
"Our men and women are screaming, begging, for someone to take a leadership role."

Owensby said the perception was that Ciesielski was a boss in name only and that he in fact reported to Straub- the one that actually ran the department.

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