Editor’s note: This article has been updated with comment from IndyBar and Cyndi Carrasco.
Two questions posed to hundreds of central Indiana police officers in a vote of confidence have revealed bare-bones support for the Marion County prosecutor and Marion County court system, according to an announcement from the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #86.
The FOP membership vote was announced Aug. 4 and called following the fatal shooting of Elwood Police Officer Noah Shahnavaz during a July 31 traffic stop. The results were announced Monday.
“It was demanded that we move on this now, and they turned out in the manner that they did, and that they stand very clear on the issue,” FOP President Rick Snyder said during a Monday news conference.
“Suffice it to say, it’s very important to note that this is a result of repeated incidents and fractures within our system, as well as failure to act by our Marion County prosecutor,” Snyder continued.
The questions asked in the vote of confidence:
- Do you have confidence in the Marion County prosecutor?
- Do you have confidence in the Marion County court system?
Results from the vote revealed that 1.1% of participating law enforcement officers had confidence in Mears — a Democrat up for election this year — and 3.5% had confidence in the county’s court system.
According to Snyder, “hundreds and hundreds” of law enforcement officers participated in the vote on confidence. He declined to provide the specific number.
The FOP said the confidence vote included input from police officers from every law enforcement agency in Indianapolis and Marion County, including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police troopers and the Beech Grove, Speedway and Cumberland police departments, among others. The Lawrence Police Department also elected to join the overall vote, Snyder said.
Synder previously claimed on his Twitter account that the suspect in the July 31 shooting, Carl Roy Webb Boards II, was previously convicted of shooting at police in Indianapolis but “was released following a lenient modified sentence from a Marion County Judge.”
The vote of confidence results come more than a week after the Indianapolis Bar Association sharply rebutted those allegations, saying in a rare statement that the facts of the sentencing are contrary to Snyder’s “irresponsible statements.”
“Mr. Snyder’s attempt to draw a line between Officer Shahnavaz’s tragic death and the Defendant’s Marion County conviction is not only inaccurate, it is dangerous,” the bar stated on Aug. 12. “It would lead an uninformed person to conclude that the Court in this matter somehow exhibited leniency that resulted in the death of a law enforcement officer. Our community does not benefit from such reckless rhetoric.”
In responding Monday to the IndyBar’s rebuttal of the terms “lenient” and “modified,” Snyder said Boards did not get the maximum sentence that he could have for his crimes. The IndyBar statement claimed the sentence was “near the maximum permitted by Indiana law.”
According to Snyder, the Madison County prosecutor and other attorneys outside of the Indianapolis Bar Association have contacted the Indianapolis FOP to say the sentence was modified.
“The point is that because of our system being lenient, modifying sentences and not giving the maximum on cases where it is absolutely appropriate, violent offenders are emboldened and they go on to repeat their violence once they’re back out,” Snyder said.
The FOP leader said he has never seen the Marion County criminal justice process “in the shambles that it’s in right now.” He specifically pointed to concerns with red-flag law filings in Marion County and crimes committed by violent offenders released on low bonds.
“We ask the question, are the Marion County Courts accurately and appropriately applying Criminal Rule 26?” Snyder said, referring to the pretrial release rule. “It has been made clear to us they are not.”
When asked if the FOP is afraid that the vote of confidence results will deepen the divide between law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office, Snyder said most officers would say at this point, “I don’t know how much deeper that divide could actually be.”
The next steps following the vote results are to request meetings with the Indiana Supreme Court as well as Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to seek a solution for Marion County, Snyder said.
A representative for the Marion County Courts referred comment on the confidence vote to IndyBar, which sent Indiana Lawyer a statement from President-Elect Rebecca Geyer saying, “The Indianapolis Bar Association believes that a dialogue to address problems between our police force, the judiciary and the Marion County Prosecutor, rather than votes of no confidence, will go much further in addressing the needs of our community. A vote of no confidence isn’t a solution and doesn’t lead to progress in addressing the issues at hand. We are hopeful the parties can engage in meaningful discourse in the near future to analyze the root causes of the death of Officer Noah Shahnavaz and attacks on other public safety officers in our community.”
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office said it had no comment on the confidence vote results, stating that it remains “focused on the work.”
Cyndi Carrasco, the Republican candidate running against Mears in November, released a statement calling the vote results “another glaring example of what I see and hear as I travel this county every day, and that is people are fed up.”
“The results of today’s FOP Vote of No Confidence in Prosecutor Ryan Mears reaffirms that Mears is unwilling and unable to work with stakeholders to end the public safety crisis. This results in violent repeat offenders continuing to terrorize our streets,” Carrasco said in her statement. “As your Marion County Prosecutor, I will prioritize partnerships with a diverse group of public safety stakeholders, and I’ve already begun to do so.
“We all have a shared goal of keeping our community safe,” she continued. “I will work with law enforcement throughout our county to hold criminals accountable, support victims, and make Marion County safe and prosperous.”