omnisource deals in metal recycling. monday, the company was raided for buying stolen scrap. it's no secret that thieves all over the city have been stealing any metal they can get their hands on and selling it for scrap. apparently they've been selling it to omnisource.
the surprise is that omnisource has hired 51 off-duty IMPD cops to work security. this is only the latest in a slew of stories that make IMPD look bad—corrupt, inept, or both—and the "supporters" story is a plea that we shouldn't rush to the judgment that those 51 cops were in on the scam. none of those cops have been charged with anything, supporters say. there's even a quote from the local FOP president stating that he's "confident" that none of those cops were involved in law-breaking.
common sense suggests that at least one of those fifty-one police officers running around the place should have noticed that some shady stuff was going on. so the idea that none of these cops were in on it fails the sniff test.
but it gets worse. i first read these details in today's star editorial:
The list of off-duty IMPD officers that OmniSource employed includes Detective Jason Prendergast, the department's lead investigator of scrap metal thefts. His employment by a company working in a field directly related to his on-duty responsibilities is an obvious conflict of interest.
Two years ago, Prendergast and Maj. David Allender, a district commander also employed by OmniSource, led an investigation into one of the company's top competitors in the city.
the top guy in charge of scrap metal thefts was moonlighting as a security guard at a company that was buying stolen scrap metal. why would prendergast even want to work security there? even giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming he didn't know about the crimes there, how could he have thought it was a good idea? and even worse, why would his bosses agree to let him do it?
the investigation into omnisource has been going on for a year. top brass (including, we must assume, mayor ballard's office) have known about the investigation all this time. yet prendergast and others were allowed to continue moonlighting there. clearly something screwy has been going on.
mayor ballard, who eagerly seized control of the police department last year, steadfastly refused to comment on the story during a video chat yesterday with the star ed board. the ed board valiantly tried to get him to comment, but he refused. today's editorial takes him to task for being invisible on this issue, as he is on so many others. ballard's defenders will surely try to blame former mayor peterson and sheriff anderson, as they do whenever ballard is in trouble. (no doubt abdul is already working on his post blaming the prior administration.) but ballard is mayor now, and it would be nice for him to show some leadership on this issue (and a number of others). the man likes to talk about leadership. he wrote a book about it, and even teaches leadership classes to IMPD officers. but when it comes to actually stepping up and exhibiting leadership, he's nowhere to be found.
as tully wrote in today's column, ballard has no political instinct. he says he hates lame photo ops, but he doesn't seem to understand that one of the main ways politicians lead is by getting in front of a tv camera and showing people you're in control. and since ballard made it a point to take personal control over the IMPD, that only makes it more important that he get up there and say, "we're investigating, we hope none of our officers were involved in wrongdoing, but if they were they'll be punished." his unwillingness to do so is troubling.
we haven't heard the last of this story. this is shaping up to be yet another black eye for a police department that has had a lot of bruises lately. ¶