Republican candidate for mayor Tyler Moore released a plan for how he wants to overhaul Kokomo’s public safety, but Democratic Mayor Greg Goodnight said Moore’s plan is based upon false numbers, including how many hours local officers and firefighters work.
Last week Moore’s campaign issued what it dubbed a “Forward-Thinking ‘Public Safety’ Policy Paper,” centering on five initiatives the Republican wants to undertake with Kokomo Police Department and Kokomo Fire Department should he assume the mayor’s office.
The plan cites high officer and firefighter work hours as a primary justification for claiming that both departments are understaffed. The release, however, garnered a fiery rebuke from Goodnight, who isn’t seeking another term in office this year.
According to Moore’s release, “The average Kokomo police officer works over 50 hours per week, and the average Kokomo firefighter works almost 60 hours per week. This is not sustainable as a standard for the health and wellbeing of our public safety professionals.”
Moore’s statistics drew the ire of Goodnight, who claimed, “[Moore] flat out lies in his press release. I’ll quote his press release where he says, ‘I’m committed to creating an open, honest, and positive dialogue.’ There’s nothing in his plan that is open, honest, or positive.”
In response to Moore’s release, the city released data concerning the average hours worked by department employees over 30 weeks this year, from January through late July. According to the city’s data, police officers within the department averaged 35.17 hours worked per week, while firefighters averaged 49.9 hours per week. The statistics exclude the police chief, fire chief, and various administrative positions within each department.
But, Moore contended the numbers he cited were from the local firefighter and police unions, claiming the statistics in his plan were from “the average” patrol officer and firefighter.
In response to Goodnight’s criticism, Moore said the city’s data was far too short of a timespan.
“It’s a six-month snapshot,” said Moore. “At the beginning, you’ve got the first of the year that involves a holiday. Some of the guys have time off. That takes it through July. July isn’t complete yet. Those numbers don’t take into consideration time off, sick leave, any time away from their respective stations.”
Moore did not provide data or documentation to verify his claims and didn’t cite a specific time period for his data set either.
In furtherance of his claims, Moore also compared KPD’s staffing levels with the city of Elkhart’s.
The Republican’s release read, “Moore compared Kokomo’s commitment to public safety to Elkhart’s, a city smaller in both size and population and found that Elkhart has almost 30 more police officers and 40 more firefighters than Kokomo.”
As of July 2018, Elkart’s population was estimated to be 52,367. Kokomo’s, at the same time, was estimated to be 57,869.
Moore also said a recent spate of shootings and stabbings lent credence to the need for more officers.
“Talking to folks on the streets the two issues that have come up, whether we’re walking and talking or online polls, have been public safety and infrastructure ... obviously there was a report last week of the four stabbings and shooting, and we thought, ‘OK, we’ll start with public safety.’ Obviously that’s one at the top of everyone’s mind,” Moore said.
In response, the city-cited FBI Uniform Crime Report data to refute Moore’s claims about police staffing. For the years 2016 and 2017, Elkhart reported 20 murders, 167 robberies, 1,113 aggravated assaults, 4,101 property crimes, 819 burglaries, 2,854 larceny thefts, and 428 motor vehicle thefts. Elkhart did not report totals for arson and rape in 2017.
During that same time period, Kokomo reported 10 murders, 132 robberies, 650 aggravated assaults, 3,429 property crimes, 889 burglaries, 2,365 larceny thefts, and 175 motor vehicle thefts. The only statistic Elkhart fared better on was the burglary totals.
Furthermore, Goodnight took issue with the comparison to a city police department that’s faced a litany of scandals recently due to reporting by ProPublica and South Bend Tribune.
“I find it very disturbing that he wants to model our police department [after Elkhart’s] when there is more identified corruption in the Elkhart police department than any city I could find, not only in Indiana but any city in the Midwest,” said Goodnight. “They have multiple investigations within their hierarchy. They’ve had multiple indictments. And if Commissioner Moore wants to bring that model to Kokomo, we’re all in trouble.”
But, Moore said the issue was more about appropriate staffing levels.
“To me I think it’s a manpower issue … We’re looking at comparable sizes,” said Moore. “Yes, Elkhart is a little bit smaller, but population and square miles is the same. It could be proximity to the area with a lot that’s happening in the South Bend area. With Elkhart being located where they are, it’s probably fortunate they have the level of officers they have to deter what appears to be reported. I think it’s just manpower. Like anything else that we look at, or when we’re comparing Kokomo to other areas, which the current administration usually does to justify what’s being done or not being done, we’ve done the same thing.”