The ultimate goal of every law enforcement agency is quite obvious: to serve and to protect the community, a slogan that is often painted on the sides of police-commissioned vehicles across the country. It’s reassuring and humbling when, through research and experience, you come to find an agency that exemplifies and truly carries out the ideals behind its slogan.
I sat down with Sergeant Tom Weger, a 12-year veteran and public information officer for the Fishers, Indiana Police Department, or FPD. Fishers is a town of roughly 80,000 people that is just northeast of Indianapolis. In fact, it’s a suburb, and a large one at that, which has been growing heavily since 1998.
The FPD is made up of 100 police officers. In 2013, Fishers had 50,050 various calls for service, and the FPD responded to 47,660 of those calls. And, as a true indicator of the path of our society, this was an 11 percent increase over the previous year. In 2013, the FPD made 1,792 arrests, in contrast to the 1,360 made in 2012. Ninety percent of Fishers’ offenders come from Marion County, where the city of Indianapolis lies.
To address both the growth in incidents and the needs of its citizens, the FPD continues to increase directed patrols and safety checks. The goal is quite simple: proactively seek out any non-inherent criminal elements in the area. Fishers’ finest stopped 16 in-progress crimes in 2013 and reduced burglaries by 22 percent. This is impressive, and it’s clearly due to their increased patrols and visibility within the community.
When faced with extremely dangerous and intractable situations, the FPD turns to its Emergency Response Team (ERT). The ERT is made up of 26 members, divided into three teams. The ranks include six crisis negotiators, four countersnipers, five medics and 16 entry team members. The ERT squad member selection process is similar to those of other agencies. Candidates need a minimum of two years on the force, with four to five years preferred. Candidates must then pass a fitness test and interview before their work record is reviewed.
The FPD ERT training schedule is impressive. ERT personnel participate in 24 hours of monthly tactical training. Several days a year are spent at Camp Atterbury for more extensive tactical exercises including live-fire shoothouses, shooting at longer ranges, breaching and opportunities to practice other techniques that can’t be conducted elsewhere. The ERT receives monumental support from their administrators and takes full advantage of said support by participating in an additional three- to five-day, team-wide training with a contracted trainer. When this is the case, they turn to respected trainers such as Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics. In fact, the ERT has contracted with Kyle Lamb for 2014, and the FPD utilized his services in 2013 as well. The FPD has also contracted with Jeff Gonzales of Tricon and Phil Singleton of Singleton International in the past. In addition, the FPD sends specialty teams, such as countersnipers, breachers, team leaders and climbers, to training opportunities hosted by other departments’ tactical teams that have contracted with a trainer. I’ve profiled several agencies, and the FPD ERT has the most extensive training curriculum vitae that I have seen to date.
In the spring of 2013, an organized ring of criminals chose the town for a bank robbery. The authorities in Fishers, as well as those in the FBI, were aware of the potential hit ahead of time, and the FPD responded. The tactical planning focused on possible worst-case scenarios. Officers were briefed continually, including days prior to the heist. Five suspects were involved, two of them armed, and a female hostage was taken during the crime. According to Lt. Cameron Ellison, the ERT team commander, the biggest danger to the community was if the suspects tried to run, which they did. In the end, all five were apprehended shortly after leaving the scene, and no one was seriously injured. And though many response resources were utilized, Lt. Ellison credits training received from Viking Tactics for helping the team respond effectively to the incident.
The ERT’s weapons include select-fire, 14.5-inch-barreled ARs from DPMS and a couple of 16-inch-barreled Bushmaster XM15-ES2s that are select-fire as well. Their ARs are topped with EOTech holographic sights that are night-vision capable. All of their ARs have Troy/VTAC forends and VTAC light mounts, vertical foregrips and two-point slings as well as SureFire lights and suppressors. Their armory also holds a couple of select-fire DPMS Kitty Kats for special security and vehicle details.
The story behind the ERT’s secondary weapons is interesting. A few years ago, they received a few government-surplus 1911s from various manufacturers. Not convinced they could be utilized as is, the guns were sent to Novak for new springs, sights, triggers, hammers, backstraps, grips and refinishing. Not only were the guns fast and accurate, but these LEOs found it a great honor to use weapons that had been in the hands of our nation’s warriors to defend our country. Now all members receive government-surplus 1911s with full Novak upgrades. ERT members still retain their department-issued sidearms as well.
The ERT countersnipers use Remington 700s chambered in .308 Winchester with 18-inch barrels. For optics, they use Leupold 4.5-14x50mm Mark 4 LR/T scopes with TMR reticles. The ERT’s other weapons include Remington 870 shotguns and two 37mm launchers. Less-lethal options include Taser X26s, drag-stabilized beanbag rounds for the shotguns, chemical munitions, and Defense Technology eXact iMpact rounds for the launchers.
The FPD has 65 officers in the patrol division broken down into four squads with at least eight officers on patrol at any given time. Responding to the community’s requests, patrols have stepped up to be more visible. Each squad has a K-9 team as well.
Outside of the usual neighborhood visibility and patrol, there is a busy business district made up of retail shops and hotels. Many calls are fielded for theft from vehicles and narcotics-related issues. Vice operations are conducted in the hotels as well. Fishers is fortunate that the town has not had a recent homicide. Though that may be the case, other crimes are on the rise. Most notably there has been a sharp increase in heroin use, which, sadly, is similar to what has been seen in many cities across the nation.
Their patrol sidearms are Sig Sauer series pistols. The FPD has 128 fleet vehicles. Their patrol vehicles consist of Dodge Chargers and Ford Interceptor SUVs.
While the town of Fishers, Indiana, is in the enviable position of lacking a significant criminal element, that didn’t happen by accident. The Fishers Police Department continues to train and approach its policing duties in a manner to help ensure that fact doesn’t change. It’s no wonder that the community and its leaders support them. It’s this attitude of preparedness that helps keep Fishers a very safe and desirable community in which to live and work. I thank the men and women of the FPD for their faithful service and the honor of getting to learn more about them.