Indianapolis public safety chief leaving position

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A former New York police commissioner hired to clean up and modernize the Indianapolis Police Department submitted his resignation Friday following more than a year of criticism over investigators' mishandling of evidence in a fatal crash involving an officer.

Public Safety Director Frank Straub will remain in his position possibly until Aug. 1 during a search for his replacement, the mayor's office said.

Straub's resignation came 11 days after the city's police chief resigned amid revelations that the department mishandled a blood sample taken from Officer David Bisard following the August 2010 crash. Drunken driving charges against Bisard have been dismissed by a judge because of trouble with the blood tests.

In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Straub denied that there was any connection between his resignation and flak over his management of the police department.

"This is something in all honesty that I've been thinking about for a long while now," Straub said. "I think when you are hired to re-engineer an organization … it's a challenging position to be in."

Mayor Greg Ballard hired Straub in 2009 to oversee the city's public safety agencies. Straub had been police commissioner of White Plains, N.Y., for seven years. Both Straub's resignation letter and the mayor's statement touted Straub's accomplishments, including lower homicide levels, improved training, integrated agency operations and increased diversity.

"Frank Straub came to Indianapolis facing the difficult task of updating and modernizing the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department at the same time preparing for and successfully hosting the highest profile event in this city's history," Ballard said in a statement, referring to the 2012 Super Bowl. "It hasn't always been easy but meaningful reform seldom is."

In his resignation letter, Straub said he had been hired to "re-engineer" the police department and had largely succeeded, though he acknowledged there was still work to be done to address "systemic weaknesses" and restore public trust. He said his administration had overhauled the department's professional standards division — formerly known as internal affairs — and been "relentless" in pursuit of officers "who tarnish their badge."

In two years before Straub was hired, Indianapolis officers had been accused of trafficking drugs, arson, running a prostitution ring and taking bribes.

Since Straub's arrival, he has been dogged by trouble within the department, including claims of excessive force and the arrests of several officers on criminal charges. Straub has claimed the incidents came to light because he took a hard stand against corruption. He assailed what he described as a police culture that had tolerated bad behavior for decades.

Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President William Owensby has said he has never seen any signs of corruption within the department.

He released a statement saying the police union supported the mayor's announcement and was focused on budget issues that he said threatened the department's efforts at community policing.

The Bisard case proved to be a lightning rod for criticism throughout much of Straub's tenure.

An internal probe in 2011 concluded that the investigation had been botched and riddled with errors, but some critics suspected police were covering for one of their own.

The latest mistake happened in November, when prosecutors say police misplaced a vial of blood that prosecutors hoped could be used to show Bisard was drunk when he plowed into two motorcycles at a stoplight. Ballard said the blunder showed gross incompetence and possibly criminal intent.

Straub had recently faced a series of hearings before the city-county council's public safety committee as it considered whether to recommend renewing his contract. But Straub said he hadn't been concerned for his job.

"The mayor has been really clear that regardless of what city council vote was going to be, that I was going to stay if that was what I wanted to do," he said.

Straub said he was reviewing prospects for his next job.

"There's a bunch of possibilities out there," he said. "Now it's at a point of picking the right job in the right place."

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