Part of the executive branch of Indianapolis-Marion County government, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) was one of six departments created under UNIGOV. It was charged with keeping order and protecting citizens and their property. Before Unigov, the Board of Public Safety carried out similar functions. In addition to a director and three advisory boards, the department had five divisions: Police, Fire, Emergency Management Planning, Animal Control, and Weights and Measures.

On the cover is "Annual Report. Department of Public Safety City of Indianapolis" and the names of the Mayor and director.
Annual Report Cover, Department of Public Safety, 1988 Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source

The director, appointed by the MAYOR and approved by the CITY-COUNTY COUNCIL, appointed the police and fire chiefs and was responsible for major policy decisions, budgeting, planning, and coordination of the departmental divisions. The director supervised hiring, promotion, affirmative action, and discipline within the department. The director also appointed the Police Merit Board and the Fire Merit Board, which implements the merit system for their respective departments. This individual also managed the Marion County Justice Agency, previously known as the DPS Marion County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which maintained the criminal and civil court computer system and provided pretrial services.

The Board of Public Safety advised the director and was responsible for reviewing departmental contracts, approving the budget, and studying relevant issues. It consisted of four members serving one-year terms, two of whom were appointed by the mayor and two by the City-County Council. The Public Safety Committee of the City-County Council also advised the director and approved the budget.

The Department of Public Safety was also responsible for emergency management planning, formerly known as civil defense, that prepared and implemented comprehensive disaster plans for the metropolitan area and coordinated local resources for emergency relief services. Animal control was another function of the department. It assumed these responsibilities from private agencies in the mid-1970s. Finally, DPS served a consumer protection function by checking all weighing and measuring devices for accuracy. DPS inspectors routinely checked measuring devices and measured commodities such as gas pumps, produce scales, and pre-weighed turkeys.

In the 2000s, organization of the departments for which DPS had responsibility changed. In 2007, the Indianapolis Police Department law enforcement officers and officers from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office consolidated into a new Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), under control of the sheriff. Control of IMPD went to the mayor in 2008. The Marion County Justice Agency was consolidated into the Department of Public Safety that same year. The configuration of the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD), which had included only the old city limits with Unigov, also altered. State law changed to allow for voluntary consolidation of township fire departments. The Washington and Warren Township fire departments consequently became part of IFD in 2007. Park rangers became part of DPS in 2009, and responsibility for the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Agency (MECA), a police radio station which had served all local emergency and law enforcement agencies beginning in 1992, transferred to the department in 2011.

In 2016, the City-County Council voted to eliminate the department, and Mayor Joe Hogsett signed an executive order that immediately delegated more responsibility to the police and fire chiefs, making them the heads of their respective city departments. They report directly to the mayor. Hogsett created an Office of Public Health and Safety in 2017 to take over other functions that had been part of the Department of Public Safety.

Revised June 2023

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