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IBA Bar Leader Series Class X: Public Safety in the Spotlight

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By Kevin Morrissey, Lewis & Kappes

Regrettably, we see all too often in the news the various threats to the safety of our citizens in Indianapolis and throughout the country. These struggles are universal and impact all of us as a society in different ways.

In March, the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Bar Leader Series X met to focus on the many public safety challenges our community faces, as well as areas of opportunity to expand public safety measures. As aspiring leaders, the message for our group was that each of us must step up to our responsibility as members of the bar and the Indianapolis community to help rectify ongoing safety and health issues as well as prevent future harm to fellow Hoosiers.

Before discussing public safety issues, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson addressed the class during the lunch hour. Mayor Peterson shared his views on leadership, specifically how individuals become leaders within organizations and communities. Interestingly, Mayor Peterson observed not necessarily the “most capable” among leaders were selected, but, instead, leaders often “self-selected” by being willing to take the “slings and arrows” that come with the role of a leader. I understood this to mean that courage is an indispensable characteristic of leadership. Leaders must have the fortitude to make unpopular decisions for the benefit of their organization or community. Mayor Peterson noted that “sometimes when you are trying to do something impossible, you just have to get started.”

Our group was then privileged to hear the story of the development of Lucas Oil Stadium and how Indianapolis negotiated a long-term relationship with the Indianapolis Colts. It was fascinating to hear the “inside baseball” version of events that led to creation of one of the NFL’s most modern stadiums and a revitalized convention center. Mayor Peterson stressed that in any negotiation, one must understand and appeal to the motivations of the other side. The key is to just “stay talking.” The process of meeting the goals of both the city and the Colts was clearly not always smooth sailing. It was intriguing to hear about some of the calculated risks the city took during negotiations. Moreover, this discussion emphasized to me that one cannot overlook the importance of personal relationships and trust in any negotiation, regardless of the dollar amount involved.

Next up were Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and Marion County Public Safety Director Troy Riggs, who discussed with our group the various proactive efforts their offices are currently implementing to confront public safety issues in Marion County. Mr. Riggs was recently named Public Safety Director, having been on the job only a matter of months, though it is clear that he has hit the ground running, establishing 30 “efficiency teams” to delve into a number of issues facing the Department of Public Safety. Mr. Riggs spoke regarding the Violent Crime Review Team which will develop a strategy to reduce violent crime rates in Marion County. Unfortunately, he reported that based on intelligence information the county is anticipating a tough summer in terms of violent crime. Additionally, Mr. Riggs noted that several of the efficiency teams will be drilling down on how the government can best utilize tax dollars to provide services to the public, making it clear that he believes the government should be as efficient as possible with its dollars.

Prosecutor Curry provided a detailed survey of his office and described several of the initiatives he has put into motion to combat serious challenges facing the County. Primarily, he stressed that he is focused on “restoring trust and faith in the office.” Prosecutor Curry shared a number of achievements in his office in recent years and indicated that increased emphasis will be placed on sharing information about those successes with the public. Of note, Mr. Curry mentioned recent success in updating and improving the system by which his office collects and manages child support obligations.

Finally, we heard from Dr. George Parker, Director of the Psychiatric Unit at IU Health. Dr. Parker shared with us that 15 percent of individuals in the Indiana Department of Corrections suffer from some form of mental illness, yet, people with mental illness are at a much higher risk of being the victim of violent crime as opposed to perpetrating a violent crime. Dr. Parker discussed the competency evaluations he regularly performs for the Marion County Courts. Interestingly, Dr. Parker discussed the Tony Kiritsis case and the fact that, as a result of this trial, the Indiana Legislature switched the burden of proof for insanity-pleading defendants from the prosecution to the defense. Not being raised in Indianapolis, this account of the Kiritsis case and its aftermath made Dr. Parker’s lecture a particularly compelling one.

Overall, this session of BLS X was once again a success. In light of the Boston Marathon tragedy, public safety was on all of our minds. The speakers’ advice hit near and dear to our hearts as we looked forward to Indianapolis serving as the international hub in the upcoming months for large events like the Mini Marathon, the Indianapolis 500 and the Indiana Black Expo.•

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