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Hogsett, Shreve offer competing public safety visions in WISH-TV debate

Public safety dominates Indianapolis Mayoral Debate

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The two candidates for Indianapolis’ top job on Monday night drew contrasts on everything from IMPD staffing to the city’s handling of the 2020 riots.

Incumbent mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, and Storage Express founder and former City-County Councilor Jefferson Shreve, a Republican, met at WISH-TV’s studios for the first live, televised debate of the 2023 mayoral election. Public safety issues dominated the first third of the debate. Hogsett laid the blame for Indianapolis’ crime problems at the feet of state lawmakers, saying their decision to authorize permitless concealed carry led to a proliferation of people carrying guns who have no business doing so. He said the city’s own data show downtown Indianapolis, long a focal point of his critics and of Shreve’s campaign, is one of the safest places in the city.

“There are more guns in our city than there are people, and unless we start meaningfully addressing those issues, we’re going to continue to have unfortunate incidents of gun violence,” he said. “Gun violence brings with it perception problems.”

Shreve said the small geographic size of IMPD’s downtown district distorts the crime problems the city’s urban core faces. Further, he blamed lower crime statistics in part on a shortage of police officers who can respond to calls and make reports. He said that problem ultimately stems from a lack of leadership and a feeling among officers that they won’t be supported by the city’s highest officials.

“Oftentimes, (officers) just go to departments where they feel better supported, better led and backed,” he said. “And so, this is a leadership deficit challenge, not a fiscal challenge.”

Shreve’s campaign advertising has made a point of questioning Hogsett’s whereabouts the night of May 29 and 30, 2020, the first nights of riots following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. News 8 asked Hogsett that question during the debate. He said he was working from home and was in constant contact with top law enforcement and emergency management officials throughout the evening, adding it would not have been wise for him to be on the ground at the height of the riots. Shreve said he would have been either at the city’s emergency command center or in the mayor’s office on the 25th floor of the City-County Building.

When asked about the issue of overpolicing communities of color, both candidates turned to technology, namely body cameras and dash cameras. Hogsett said he was proud of his administration’s funding of such cameras and of his establishment of a civilian-majority police review board, while Shreve said the city was far too slow to adopt such technology.

Both candidates said Indiana State Police Supt. Doug Carter’s recent criticism of Marion County’s criminal justice system, in which he called for sweeping changes to the county’s bail matrix, among other alterations, were valid. Although the sheriff, prosecutor and judges are elected separately, Shreve said he would use his position as mayor to pressure separate elements of the system to change how they operate. Hogsett pointed to his recent decision to fund three Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys focusing exclusively on gun crimes.

Following the debate, Shreve said he hoped viewers took time to digest what they saw and heard from each candidate.

“If Mayor Hogsett is reelected, we can predict how that is going to turn out. He is not going to lay on the gas,” he said. “If I am elected, I’m going to put my foot down. We’re going to have four fast years in Indianapolis.”

Hogsett turned down a post-debate interview. In a statement following the debate, campaign manager Blake Hesch said, “Tonight’s debate underscores why we need four more years of Mayor Joe Hogsett’s leadership. Mayor Joe’s positive vision for our city contrasts with Jefferson Shreve, which is why we continue to see growing support for Mayor Joe and our campaign.”

Early voting runs through noon on Nov. 6. Election Day is Nov. 7.