Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness focused on public safety and health during his annual State of the City address Sept. 13 in front of a packed room at the Forum Events Center.
The event, hosted by OneZone Chamber of Commerce, featured not only Fadness but Fishers Police Department Chief Ed Gebhart, Fishers Fire and Emergency Services Department Chief Steven Orusa and Fishers Health Department Director Monica Heltz.
Fadness said he wanted to focus on positive things happening in Fishers, especially with the recent political climate. He started with a discussion of the police department’s technological advances.
“We want to get behind the curtains and tell you exactly what’s going on,” he said, noting that includes advanced fingerprint and DNA analysis done in-house by Fishers police.
Gebhart gave an example of a case solved through technology. He said officers were searching a device for evidence of child pornography and found a video that showed an image of a person’s hand. They were able to make a screenshot of that image, enlarge and enhance the thumb to get a viable print and match it to a suspect who was successfully prosecuted.
“That’s an example of great technology coming in to meet great police work,” he said.
Gebhart said the FPD also has the only in-house rapid DNA testing lab in Indiana outside of the state police. With that, he said, the department can complete a DNA test in 90 minutes instead of waiting for an outside agency.
Orusa talked about how Fishers firefighters — because of some near-misses — have been outfitted with protective ballistic vests. He said the fire and police department also train together, which in a situation involving a threatening individual allows firefighters to enter a building and start caring for wounded victims before police have apprehended the suspect.
That joint training, he said, also “involves a lot of doughnuts.”
Orusa added that the Fishers Fire Department has a paramedic on each apparatus when responding to a call. Paramedics have a more advanced level of medical training compared to an EMT.
Fadness said public health is a way to reduce the need for emergency services over the long term. He referred to that effort as “swimming upstream,” and said the city is integrating public health with public safety.
Heltz agreed that the departments do intersect and make each other stronger. She said they have a social worker who collaborates with the police and fire departments, in hopes of addressing the root causes of some repeat calls.
“It’s a whole-community perspective on how we can support people better,” she said.
Heltz said her department also analyzes data, which indicates that falls are the biggest reason for 911 calls.
“We know this is something that’s happening in our community and know that we have an aging demographic,” she said.
Heltz said the city can come up with ways to reduce the cause of falls, including sidewalk improvements and working with families to make homes safer.
Heltz also talked about the restaurant inspection program, which has been ongoing throughout the year. Fadness asked her about the “wildest” things they’d seen while inspecting restaurants, and she mentioned one business — without naming it, but noting that it’s no longer in operation — that was thawing frozen shrimp on a car hood in the parking lot.
Mental health is part of public health and to address that, the city has launched a website called Stigmafreefishers.com. It provides resources to help people address a variety of mental health concerns for themselves and loved one.
Fadness added that the city also is encouraging first responders to seek mental health care.
“Our men and women see a lot of difficult things,” he said, noting that those industries are historically not great at supporting mental health concerns. “We’ve had to evolve and adapt. We’ve learned along the way to be better for them.”
The group also talked about continuing the city’s efforts to promote diversity within its ranks to better reflect the diversity of Fishers.
Fadness concluded by asking people to not get caught up in political rhetoric, talk to their neighbors and take care of themselves and each other.
Fadness is the first and so far the only mayor of Fishers since Fishers voters approved a measure to become a second-class city in 2012. He previously served as the city manager and was elected to his first term as mayor in 2015. Fadness is running unopposed in the Nov. 7 general election.