Local police agencies urged to use federal police dollars

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — The American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, is a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that includes $10 billion set aside for law enforcement. It can be used for hiring, equipment, and other resources, but on Friday, President Biden said there is still plenty of money in that package not being utilized.

“The need is clear, my message is clear, spend this money now,” President Biden said, hoping to stave off a summer crime wave.

According to the White House, Indiana spent $20 million on body cameras for State Police officers.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Department, firefighters, and 911 dispatch used $7.6 million to hire more personnel and give raises to current employees.

The city also used $1.8 million to hire more attorneys in the Marion County Public Defender’s and Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.

“If we had money to build a better system of care for mental health providers partnering with law enforcement, we could use the money. That’s the pot of money we could probably spend tomorrow if we had it in our hands,” Chief Chase Lyday, head of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association, said.

Lyday says recruitment and retention is a major issue, especially for school resource officers.

“Particularly in schools, where it’s a bit of a niche side of policing, someone has to like kids,” Lyday said.

Lyday would like to see money put into establish solid partnerships with local mental health providers.

Those agencies can guide officers on how to assess a threat on the front end.

“When a kid articulates something violent, serious, or threatening, it’s our job to quarterback the situation and partner with our mental health providers to determine how to address that situation preventatively,” Lyday said.

Lyday adds, jailers too often become mental health counselors for individuals housed in local jails, a task many of them aren’t qualified for.

“Many of the kids we deal with from the criminal justice standpoint simply need mental health resources. Many times because there aren’t enough providers, because we don’t have the information sharing systems built because resources are too expensive,” Lyday said.

Chief Lyday and other law enforcement officials from around the state met with Senator Todd Young Friday to advocate for stronger federal partnerships in dealing with not just school threats, but violence in community as well.