Resolution supporting $5K more for Bloomington police gets OK from city council

A resolution that expresses support for revising the current collective bargaining agreement with the police union, to increase sworn officer pay by $5,000, was approved by Bloomington’s city council at a special meeting on Wednesday.

The vote was 7–1–1

Dissenting on the vote were Matt Flaherty, who voted against the resolution, and Kate Rosenbarger, who abstained from the vote after participating in deliberations.

Spurring the resolution, which was sponsored by Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg, and Ron Smith, are Bloomington police department’s (BPD’s) challenges with recruitment and retention.

Two recent resignations have dropped the number of sworn officers to 91, out of 105 that are authorized. The proposed 2022 budget provides funding for 105 sworn officers.

BPD’s union, FOP Lodge 88, has provided certified salary amounts to the state’s police pension fund for comparisons that show Bloomington ranks 68th out of 153 departments in the state.

Sandberg said at Wednesday’s meeting, “We should have been doing more to retain officers. And our failure to keep pace with competitive salaries has brought us to this critical point where action is needed now.”

Around 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, about an hour before the city council’s Wednesday sessions started, a joint statement on the resolution was issued by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton and police chief Mike Diekhoff. The statement essentially opposed the resolution. Continue reading “Resolution supporting $5K more for Bloomington police gets OK from city council”

Bloomington corporation counsel on city council’s police pay resolution: “This is in some ways the council taking over the bargaining process.”

The backdrop of a city council work session on Friday was news that another Bloomington police officer had unexpectedly left the department the day before, following on the heels of a resignation the previous week.

The focus of the work session was to consider a resolution calling for increased police pay, which the council might approve at a special meeting next Wednesday.

Weighing in at the work session against the council’s resolution was the city’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, who sees it as an intrusion into the collective bargaining process between the administration and the police union.

Guthrie said, “[The resolution] is in some ways the council taking over the bargaining process.” She added, “I’m not positive, but I believe that the $5,000 figure, or whatever else you’ve got in the resolution, would have come from the police union. So in effect, you are bargaining with the police union.”

The $5,000 figure is the amount specified in the resolution as an increase in pay for all sworn officers.

The resolution is sponsored by councilmembers Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg, and Ron Smith. [Updated on Sept. 8 at 5:32 p.m. In a joint statement released by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton and police chief Mike Diekhoff, they discouraged the idea of re-opening the collective bargaining process. However, Hamilton and Diekhoff supported the idea of increasing the recruitment and retention pool proposed in the 2022 budget from $250,000 to $500,000. The new amount would work out to roughly $5,000 per officer.  Link: Text of 2021-09-08 joint statement]

Continue reading “Bloomington corporation counsel on city council’s police pay resolution: “This is in some ways the council taking over the bargaining process.””

Bloomington city council to mull resolution on “certain inadequacies within the police budget”

The proposed 2022 budget for Bloomington’s police department will be the topic of a city council work session on Friday at noon, and a special meeting of the council set for 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday (Sept. 8).

Up for discussion will be a resolution sponsored by councilmembers Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg and Ron Smith that “addresses certain inadequacies within the police budget,” according to Rollo.

News of the possible resolution came at the end of the city council’s Wednesday meeting, during the time when the council addresses scheduling matters.

The resolution is likely to call for an increase to the proposed 2022 police budget so that pay for officers can be bumped, which would probably require an earlier-than-scheduled reopening of the collective bargaining agreement with FOP Lodge 88.

Those are options that the city council discussed last week during its hearing on the police department’s budget. Continue reading “Bloomington city council to mull resolution on “certain inadequacies within the police budget””

Budget notebook: Bloomington police salary data

Much of last Tuesday’s Bloomington city council hearing on the police department’s 2022 budget focused on pay for Bloomington’s sworn officers.

A key question councilmembers were keen to get answered: How does compensation for Bloomington’s police officers stack up against compensation in other Indiana cities?

At last Tuesday’s meeting, Fraternal Order Police Lodge 88 representatives told councilmembers that BPD compensation ranks 68th out of the state’s roughly 153 departments—still in the top half, but not by much.

That’s consistent with the 2021 data that the FOP Lodge 88 has since provided to The B Square. Continue reading “Budget notebook: Bloomington police salary data”

Concern about Bloomington’s police staffing levels in light of potential annexations: By the numbers

According to Bloomington’s fiscal plan in support of its proposed annexation of territory,  the police department would need to add between 24 and 31 sworn officers, at a cost of up to around $2.6 million a year.

The additional officers would be needed in order to provide service to 9,000 more acres of area, and about 14,000 more people, based on Bloomington’s annexation plans.

At Wednesday’s public hearing on the proposed annexations, the president of Bloomington’s police union spoke about his concerns.

Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 88 and a senior police officer for BPD, asked the city council: “Will the city have enough police officers to provide basic police services for the new version of Bloomington?”

It’s an open question, according to Post, because BPD has not been able to maintain the number of officers authorized in the city’s current budget.

BPD has fewer sworn officers than its budgeted number, but is losing officers as fast as the department can replace them, based on Post’s description.

The immediate consequence of the officer shortage, according to Post, is that all three of BPD’s uniformed patrol shifts have had to lower their daily minimum staffing levels. BPD is working at or below minimum staffing, Post said.

That means there are fewer officers who are available to field increased calls for service like “weapons in progress,” according to Post.

The numbers in Bloomington’s online payroll system and calls for service dataset basically square up with Post’s remarks.

Continue reading “Concern about Bloomington’s police staffing levels in light of potential annexations: By the numbers”

Bloomington’s Switchyard Park to get night patrols by private security firm

Two-person unarmed teams from Marshall Security will now be performing patrols in Bloomington’s 65-acre Switchyard Park from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day of the week.

A contract with the private security firm was approved by Bloomington’s board of park commissioners at its regular Wednesday meeting.

The hourly rate per security officer is $16.50. The initial contract calls for a $60,588 limit on invoiced expenses from Marshall.

Switchyard Park general manager Hsiung Marler told the four-member board of park commissioners that the security officers from Marshall would be wearing body cameras. They’ll be driving small vehicles suitable for travel on the B-Line Trail and the paths inside the park.

There are some spots inside the park where the Marshall employees will need to get out of the vehicle to make their required rounds, Marler said.

According to parks and recreation staff, the reasons for putting an increased security presence in the park include an increase in after-hours vandalism and substance use, and overnight camping.

Also part of the mix, according to Bloomington’s director of parks and recreation, Paula McDevitt, is the fact that this year is the new park’s first season of full operations. Last year would have counted a partial year anyway, even without the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issues with increased vandalism “bubbled to the top pretty quickly,” according to McDevitt. Continue reading “Bloomington’s Switchyard Park to get night patrols by private security firm”

Bloomington police: Man dies in flood, was driver of car swept up in rushing waters

In a press release issued early Sunday afternoon, Bloomington’s police department announced a search team discovered the body of a man who was reported missing, after the car he was driving was swept up in floodwaters on Friday night.

Red and blue areas are flood areas defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The purple circles indicate about where the car drove into the water, and where the body was discovered. (Map by The B Square)

The man was identified in the press release as Colten Booe (31) of Bloomington.

According to the release, Booe was last seen in a vehicle that was driven into “rapidly-moving floodwaters” near the intersection of S. College Avenue and W. Dodds Street.

The release says that according to Booe’s 29-year-old passenger, Booe was at the wheel of the 2016 Nissan Versa south on College Avenue and attempted to drive through the floodwaters near the intersection of S. College Avenue and W. Dodds Street.

Continue reading “Bloomington police: Man dies in flood, was driver of car swept up in rushing waters”

US military conducts nighttime training exercise at location of future affordable housing site in Bloomington

The thwacka-thwaka thrum of military helicopters on a training exercise drowned out the buzz of cicadas on the south side of Bloomington on Monday night.

According to the Monroe County sheriff’s office, a similar scenario will unfold on Tuesday night in Richland and Bean Blossom townships.

According to the Bloomington mayor’s office, Monday night’s training operation was conducted by the US Army. It’s one of the facts about the commotion that the city of Bloomington was able to confirm.

Based on social media reports, the geographic focus of the military training exercise was 1730 S. Walnut, the former location of the Night Moves strip club, and the adjoining Switchyard Park.

The mayor’s office confirmed to The B Square that those two locations were included in the operation, but could not say if other places in the city were also included. Continue reading “US military conducts nighttime training exercise at location of future affordable housing site in Bloomington”

Opinion: Bloomington is 52% serious about gun crime

In mid-February, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, and chief of police, Mike Diekhoff, among others, appeared at a press conference to present the city’s annual public safety report.

What is obviously missing from this chart?

The event was framed by Hamilton like this: “By sharing public data about the full range of public safety issues, we embrace accountability, …to identify persistent problems in order to address them transparently.”

One statistic reported in February was that 2020 showed a 52-percent increase, compared to 2019, in the number of cases where a gun was used to perpetrate a crime.

That’s a big jump.

Like other news outlets, The Square Beacon included that percentage figure in its report of the press conference.

Not long after The Square Beacon’s article was published, a reader asked: So what were the actual numbers of gun crimes each year? Long story short: Nobody seems to know.

Of course, the reader’s question was a fair one. It’s a question The Square Beacon should have asked without prodding from a reader.

After a phone call with the police records division, two formal records requests under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act, and email correspondence that included the legal department, the mayor, the deputy mayor, the city’s communications director, the president of the city council, and the chief of police, all of which stretched over about three months, the reader’s question remains unanswered.

Continue reading “Opinion: Bloomington is 52% serious about gun crime”

Bloomington police respond to records request, release footage of Seminary Park welfare check on man found dead hours later on Christmas Eve

In Seminary Park, on the bench at the corner of 2nd and Walnut Streets in downtown Bloomington, a memorial plaque for James “JT” Vanderburg is now set to be installed.

It’s the place where Vanderburg died last year on Christmas Eve, three days after his 51st birthday. At the time, he was without another place to stay.

The plaque was paid for by the public defender’s office and other community members. The epitaph will read: “The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is the duty of the living to do so for them.”

The Bloomington police department’s press release about Vanderburg’s death stated that officers responded to the park around 11:40 a.m. A passerby had been asked to call 911, according to the release, “because a man was lying on the ground in the park and was believed to be deceased.”

According to the press release, “[S]everal people had tried to get the man services the previous evening and had offered for him to stay with them overnight, but the man refused and slept in the park.”

The press release also stated, “Officers from BPD had checked his welfare once during the evening hours of December 23rd and twice on the morning of December 24th, but the man was sleeping and refused any assistance.”

What did those three welfare checks look like? What kind of assistance was offered?

On Thursday, Feb. 25, the city of Bloomington responded to a records request made last year by The Square Beacon, under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA). Continue reading “Bloomington police respond to records request, release footage of Seminary Park welfare check on man found dead hours later on Christmas Eve”