IBA: Public Safety Leaders See Room for Improvement

Members of the city’s public safety team recently addressed a gathering of the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Bar Leader Series class to discuss their respective roles and shed light on the challenges they are confronting.

Representing the Marion County Criminal Courts, Judge William Nelson of Marion Superior Court and Judge Lisa Borges of Marion Superior Court each noted the growing caseloads in the local court system. Judge Nelson’s docket is predominantly drunk driving cases with over 7,000 cases currently pending. He hears 100-120 proceedings each day and sets 10-15 court trials per session.

Judge Lisa Borges presides over a major felony case docket as she has since taking the bench in 2009. Prior to her election, Judge Borges was Chief of Staff for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. When she took the bench there were 340 cases pending which is now down to 235. Late last year she took the bench in Porter County for the trial of Brian Reese who stood accused of the shooting of IMPD Office Dennis Fishburn. The trial was moved to Porter County due to pre-trial publicity. Judge Borges commented on the subtle differences in court procedures she encountered and the special appreciation she gained for the dedication of each court’s staff.

Both judges made particular remarks about the ongoing challenge presented by the federal mandate in place regarding the Marion County Jail. Judge Nelson said, “The situation with the jail is atrocious. The fact that I can’t put people in jail who deserve to be there is unacceptable. Not to have this option available robs me of a behavior modifier that I need.”

Judge Borges remarked that the jail’s population and the cap in place is a primary consideration for the criminal court. “We discuss jail overcrowding on a weekly basis,” she said. “We focus on trying to move people out of the jail to the DOC or back to the street if that’s where they belong.”

Of particular interest to those attending was the participation of Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. He introduced himself by noting, “Seven months to go, and I’m staying!” Prosecutor Brizzi lauded the work of the 170 attorneys in the prosecutor’s office who handle a total of 45,000 cases annually.

“I love the work and the people that I work with,” Brizzi said. “I’m happy to say we’ve raised the salary of young deputies in our office and retention isn’t as much of an issue as it was before.”

Also joining the panel was Dr. Frank Straub who assumed the post of Public Safety Director earlier this year and Andrew Northern of the FBI. Both gentlemen provided an overview of their roles noting their commitment to monitoring homeland security. “Managing limited resources to solve crime problems is one our greatest challenges,” according to Straub. “We must also become very focused on how we address crime and how we deal with quality of life issues.”

When asked about areas of strength Straub noted, “We are very lucky when we look at the area of domestic violence. There is great collaboration in this city.”•

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