Fishers Is True Blue
Writer / Janelle Morrison
They are sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fathers or mothers. They have hopes, dreams and fears just like everyone else. What makes these individuals particularly unique is that they are willing to risk their lives on a daily basis for someone that they may never meet. They laugh, shed tears and yes, they can even be wounded and die.
As a community, we rely on these brave men and women to protect and serve us. The 21st century has begun a new era of insecurity and scrutiny on the effectiveness of public safety nationwide. Police departments across the nation have been under direct attack, and officers have been targeted and killed in the line of duty. Beyond the grim and horrific accounts of these atrocities are the stories of honor, love and appreciation for the men and women in blue.
Recently, the Fishers Police Department held their annual National Night Out (NNO). NNO is a nationwide organization dedicated to the development, maintenance and protection of community-based, law enforcement-affiliated crime prevention activities. NNO was developed as a crime prevention program that emphasizes building a partnership between the police and the community.
Chief George Kehl has valiantly served as the chief of police for the Fishers Police Department for 38 years. He shared his thoughts on attending his last NNO as the chief of police and on the status of the department from which he will retire September 30, 2016.
“It was probably the best NNO that we’ve had in a long time as far as the community support is concerned,” he expressed. “We hosted a couple thousand people at our open house that night. We had a K9 demonstration and different activities for kids. The interaction with the citizens that night was overwhelming.
“You just can’t fathom all of the thank yous, hugs and photo opportunities that we had. It was just unbelievable. Our community supports us without question. We do a lot to gain their support with our outreach programs. We have programs such as the Teen Academy, Citizen’s Police Academy, the Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Group, the FPD Explorer Academy and the City Government Academy.”
The FPD has also maintained a very productive relationship with the Hamilton Southeastern Schools’ administrators over the decades. Having worked closely with the superintendents over the years and continuing to build that relationship with the current HSE Superintendent, Dr. Allen Bourff has enabled the FPD to engage students in a positive and non-threatening environment through a myriad of programs that the department and the school district collaborates on.
Assistant Police Chief Mitch Thompson weighed in on that relationship with the schools’ administrators and the presence that the FPD has in the schools’ district.
“Our department has enjoyed a great relationship with Hamilton Southeastern Schools dating back to the 1980s,” Thompson said. “We obtained a grant through the Department of Justice to implement our School Resource Program that enabled us to have two officers in the schools when we first began the program. We currently have seven officers assigned to the schools.
“One of the best ways to detour something from happening in schools is to know that there are police officers in the schools. We know that as a community, we’re only as good as our schools are, so we’re involved with outreach programs like Parent Nights, Internet Safety, D.A.R.E. and other youth mentoring initiatives such as the Youth Assistance Program.
“Serving the community has been Chief Kehl’s philosophy since day one. For us, it is about a positive interaction with the community. Our engagement makes a huge difference in how our community sees us and how we see our community. We continue to receive a lot of positive support by ways of letters, social media posts and shares and the occasional gift of food.”
Assistant Chief Thompson spoke about the department’s engagement with local businesses as well.
“We have identified a particular pocket of Fishers that is responsible for a significant amount of our crime in the 96th and Lantern Road area. We identified that pocket was responsible for 22% of our crime in 2015. These Part 1 crimes being defined as thefts, motor vehicle thefts and retail thefts are what’s predominantly occurring down in that area, so we implemented a program within our agency working with other city departments.
“We work closely with the Code Enforcement Department, Fire Department and the EMT services, to name a few, and we are also working with the business community in the area to change the crime and the perception of crime in that area. Having those partnerships and working through the various groups, we have made an impact. It has been about six months now, and we have seen a decline in crime, and more importantly, we have seen the perception of crime improve. The businesses have been very supportive of the efforts that have gone on there.
“What is really exciting is that the Mayor Fadness, along with our Public Works Department, has decided that we are going to take over maintaining the interchanges along the interstate that lead people into our community. What used to be maintained by the state is now maintained by the City of Fishers, and when you see that the grass is mowed, it’s because they’re taking care of it at a local level. It’s a part of the overall beautification effort, and that makes an impact on crime as well. That’s just an example of the many things that we are excited about as we continue to grow our partnerships and and have an impact on what’s going on in our community.”
Looking ahead into the future and with Chief Kehl’s impending retirement, both Kehl and Thompson feel that their department of 103 sworn officers and eight civilians is well-trained and prepared to continue to operate under the values and principles that Chief Kehl has instilled over the decades. Their department proudly has 10 active officers who were invited and completed the elite FBI National Academy. The FBI National Academy is a professional course of study for U.S. and international law enforcement managers nominated by their agency heads because of demonstrated leadership qualities.
The 10-week program, which provides coursework in intelligence theory, terrorism and terrorist mindsets, management science, law, behavioral science, law enforcement communication and forensic science, serves to improve the administration of justice in police departments and agencies at home and abroad and to raise law enforcement standards, knowledge and cooperation worldwide. Participation in this academy is by invitation only. Chief Kehl and Assistant Chief Thompson are former graduates of the academy and are past presidents of the FBI Citizens Academy Indiana Chapter.
Chief Kehl is hopeful that young men and women who are considering a career in law enforcement will not be detoured by the current anti-authority climate that is currently afflicting our nation.
“It is probably the most difficult time that we’ve ever had to hire law enforcement officers because of all of the killings that have been going on,” Kehl stated. “What I want people to know is that this is a great profession, and it is very rewarding. We make sure that we have conversations with our patrol officers about safety and about being alert. We remind them of that before every shift every day.
“We go to the maximum to make sure that our officers are safe. We’ve been through this type of era before, though probably not to this extreme. It will pass over time but not until we instill in people’s minds that they have to start having respect for themselves, their communities and other people. We’ve got a long road ahead of us.”
“What a tough act to follow,” Thompson emphasized. “One of the reasons why our agency has been successful is because of consistency and having the same chief throughout that tenure. Allowing people to do their job, Chief Kehl is really good about allowing people to be creative and come up with new ideas and having them take credit for that idea.
“I have worked directly for him since 1999 and have been very fortunate to have been taken under his wing, so I have a lot of the traits that he has engrained in me. Knowing that he’s always available for consultations is very helpful as I prepare to step into his role after September.”
For more information on the FPD’s outreach programs and academies, visit fishers.in.us/police.