Cpl. Daniel Majors (left) and Deputy John Dorsey (right) understand the dangers of working in a large urban area. Deputies are issued Glock 22s, Remington shotguns and Bushmaster ARs.
STAR team member Cpl. Brian Kotarski readies his gear for serving a high-risk warrant, one of the STAR team’s main responsibilities.
New recruits take part in realistic active-shooter training at the academy. The recruits’ families and friends roleplay as innocents, while MCSO deputies stand in as threats.
Indianapolis, Indiana, is the 13th largest city in the U.S. with a population of 1 million. The borders of Indianapolis are contiguous with the borders of Marion County, which is centrally located in Indiana and the most populated county in the state. The significant law enforcement challenges in Marion County are shared by multiple police agencies, the largest of which are the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has 1,021 employees, 703 of whom are deputies with full law enforcement powers. Sheriff John Layton, who took office in January 2011, leads the department. In 2007, a realignment occurred between the MCSO and the IMPD, separating the duties of public safety between the two departments. After the change, the IMPD assumed responsibility for patrolling roads, and the MCSO continued to be responsible for the Marion County jails, the sex offender registry, serving of criminal warrants, law enforcement dispatch, court security and government building security. The MCSO is currently made up of five divisions and roughly 25 units that perform the duties assumed in the realignment.
Training & Special Teams
With a staffing level of 703 deputies working in various aspects of the sheriff’s office, training is of the utmost importance. The MCSO’s recruit training mirrors that of the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Academy. For 17 weeks, each new deputy is trained on patrol stops, field sobriety tests, alcohol and tobacco laws, traffic laws, firearms, defensive tactics, stress in law enforcement, Spanish, jail procedures, person searches, use of force, Tasers, OC spray, building searches, drugs and narcotics, investigations, courtroom testimony, radio traffic, traffic control, emergency vehicle operation, and weapon retention. The MCSO is currently seeking national accreditation for its training from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) and is confident that the accreditation will be granted later this year or early next year.
There are two special teams within the MCSO. The Sheriff’s Tactical Armed Response (STAR) team is similar to what we might commonly refer to as a SWAT team. The STAR team helps to execute high-risk warrants, will set up barricades in the case of violent offenders, and performs high-risk building entry in order to extract and detain fugitives. The STAR team is comprised of seven members that have passed a strict selection process. After selection, the deputy undergoes an additional training program and is subjected to ongoing monthly training. The MCSO is currently in the process of expanding the team to 12 members.
The Critical Emergency Response Team (CERT) works within the jail to manage situations, such as typical shakedowns, cell extractions for difficult inmates and any planned use of force. They are armed with heavy-duty, less-lethal weapons and are specially trained in the self-defense art of Krav Maga. STAR and CERT team members are on call 24/7.
MCSO weapons are in line with many other departments across the nation. All deputies are issued Glock 22s in .40 S&W. Some deputies are issued an AR-15 as well, and many are issued shotguns. The STAR team is issued Glock 22s just like the other deputies. Their rifles are 16-inch-barreled AR-15s of various makes. The STAR team has been given leeway to choose which rifle will fit each individual team member’s needs. Until recently, there was a single countersniper on the team. He deployed a trusted Remington 700 in .308. But as the STAR team grows and changes, so too do their weapons systems, and they have ordered two FN SPR rifles chambered in .308. Each rifle will be outfitted with Leupold Mark 4 LR/T 6.5-20x50mm scopes and Harris HBRS bipods for support. The precision rifles will rest inside hard Pelican cases for transport.
CERT team tools consist of Remington 870s, Bushmaster Dissipators, Penn Arms 37mm and 40mm launchers, Penn multi-launchers and Tippman 98 pepperball guns. The CERT team also employs full protective riot gear.
The MCSO commissions a myriad of vehicles: Dodge Chargers, Crown Victorias, Mercury Grand Marquis, Ford Tauruses and Dodge Intrepids. The MCSO is responsible for inmate transportation as well as when an individual is taken into custody within the county. Transport vans are the ticket for these tasks, and they use vans from Chevrolet and Ford.
I asked Sheriff Layton what his greatest challenge is as the highest elected law enforcement officer in the state of Indiana. “The economic situation of the last few years has presented a great challenge,” said Layton. “It has proven to be very difficult to provide safety to the public by keeping deputy staffing levels up while being able to provide the highest level of security and safety to our inmates.” After the 2007 realignment, MCSO deputies are challenged with the care and security of more than 2,300 inmates, executing more than 24,000 active criminal warrants, processing more than 51,000 arrestees and escorting 56,000 inmates to and from court proceedings.
Even without road patrol, the MCSO takes a big bite out crime in Marion County by chasing down and arresting thousands of fugitives with criminal warrants and making almost 9,000 compliance checks on Marion County’s 1,600 registered sex and violent offenders. MCSO deputies also serve more than 82,000 civil process papers and civil warrants each year. The MCSO incorporates the Sexual and Violent Offender Registry to help fight sexual and violent crimes by monitoring the registered individuals living within Marion County. The MCSO works closely with U.S. Marshals, Department of Homeland Security agents and other state and local agencies to ensure these known predators are in compliance.
Order Behind Bars
Although the MCSO has myriad responsibilities, its primary function is to run the Marion County jails. Everyone arrested within the county is processed at the Marion County Arrestee Processing Center (APC). The average day brings 140 arrestees, and processing lasts about eight hours. Every arrestee goes before a judge at the APC.
The MCSO houses inmates in three facilities. The main jail, referred to as Jail One, houses an average of 1,050 inmates each day. Jail One inmates include the most violent offenders and houses males and females, adults and juveniles. The MCSO’s second facility is referred to as Jail Two, and is privately operated under contract with the MCSO. The inmate capacity of Jail Two is 1,233, but on a daily basis about 1,050 inmates are housed there. Jail Two is a medium-security facility that houses only adult males. The third MCSO facility, which is located in Indianapolis’ 28-story City-County Building, houses about 139 lower-security males and females on average.
The MCSO is currently accredited by three national accrediting agencies: the American Correctional Association (Jail One), the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (Jail One) and CALEA (911 Communications Center). In the world of accreditation, this is referred to as the “Triple Crown” of accreditation. Less than 1 percent of the sheriff’s offices in the U.S. hold this Triple Crown status.
My time with the MCSO was a real eye-opener. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is a law enforcement agency not content with the status quo. It is dynamic and evolving, which can be difficult for such a large agency with vast responsibilities. By using tested and proven training techniques and focusing on improvement across all divisions, Sheriff Layton and his dedicated staff are helping to ensure the safety of the residents of Indianapolis and its surrounding municipalities.
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