City-County Council members seek more community oversight over IMPD General Orders

By Russ McQuaid | Fox59 (Indianapolis)
July 16, 2020

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INDIANAPOLIS — At more than 500 pages, IMPD’s General Orders that guide how police officers in Indianapolis do their jobs is a hefty read.

Currently, a three-member committee made of IMPD representatives and the Fraternal Order of Police consider the department’s standing orders and debate any changes.

Two City-County Council Democrats want to inject more community involvement into that process with a proposed ordinance change.

“We are seeking to establish a new General Orders Board that will assume the same responsibilities as the current General Orders Committee but the new General Orders Board will have representation from not only our law enforcement partners and the FOP but also representation from the community,” said District 6 Councilwoman Crista Carlino. “Our community is demanding both transparency and a seat at the table. In order for our law enforcement partners to do their jobs and protect us as citizens, we have to rebuild that trust between our community and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.”

“We’re prioritizing the public in our city’s public safety,” said District 2 Councilman Keith Potts, “so we’re just making sure that when those decisions are being made with the General Orders Committee that the public has a seat at the table for those conversations.”

In general, both IMPD top commanders and FOP Lodge 86 leaders have said they have no problem with more civilian review of the department and its officers.

“I 100% support civilian oversight of law enforcement,” Assistant Chief Chris Bailey told the Council’s Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday night. “I agree wholeheartedly that we serve at the pleasure of the community and what the community expects of our agency and our officers should be what we strive to do.”

FOP President Rick Snyder said he would look forward to officers divesting themselves of primary mental health and substance abuse response duties in favor of trained civilian and medical personnel to handle those calls.

“I think what it does is it drives home this need of back to basics when it comes to policing,” he said. “If you are listening to what different perspectives are saying, they all have a commonality which is, back to basics for law enforcement.”

Since early May, demonstrators have taken to Indianapolis streets to protest fatal officer involved shootings of two armed men this spring, leading to calls of “Defund the police!” that echoed downtown as recently as Wednesday night.

“If you’re a labor leader and you’re not demanding that we defund the police and refund our community, then you are embracing the white supremacy upon which our American labor movement was founded,” said Stuart Mora, Indiana Chapter President of UNITEHERE Local 23, which represents workers in the casino and service industries.

“This is going to be a long fight, so put down your golf clubs, pick up your picket signs and bullhorns and get in the fight. Defund the police and refund the community.”

Carlino was asked how she defined “defund the police.”

“We will not be defunding the police here in the city of Indianapolis,” she said, reflecting the sentiment of Council leadership, “however it is incumbent upon us as councilors that as we enter the budget season that we make sure with our revenue losses not only due to COVID-19 that we’re being frugal with every department’s budget, but we make sure that we are prioritizing resources in our community to go to the places that need them most.”

Last night, the Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee of the Council passed Proposal 196, which would permit council members to prioritize community crime reduction funding grant suggestions in their districts.

Currently the city provides about $3 million a year to such grassroots and community groups through the Central Indiana Community Foundation.

Under the new proposal, $1.25 million of that funding would be allocated in amounts from $20,000 to $80,000 per district based on poverty, racial and economic segregation and crime prevention criteria.

Many established organizations have traditionally received funding to support crime prevention programs serving both specific communities and the city as a whole.

“We think part of the problem that we have in the city is that we have so many public safety plans that there is no continuity in what we’re doing across the city,” said Rev. Charles Harrison of the Ten Point Coalition.

“We don’t mind City-County Council members having some say so, but we believe there needs to be one citywide strategy and one person working with all of these groups across the city so that we have a consistent public safety strategy and moneys are being funneled to the right groups in the right areas of the city unlike what we believe is happening today.”

While Council Republicans expressed concern about funding and program shortages in their districts, Democrats on the Council acknowledged the strain community-wide social problems have placed on IMPD.

“We’ve all seen over the past several years that the more money that we have spent, the more police officers that we’ve hired, unfortunately the higher our crime rate has gone as well so obviously just throwing money and personnel at the issue in my opinion is not the solution,” said Councilor Dan Boots of Washington Township.

“I know our police force has been understaffed the last several years based on, in my opinion, the poor management by the prior administration, and I support rebuilding that staff to more reasonable numbers, but they need help and it’s not by just hiring more of them. We need to address more of these demographic, economic and social determinant issues.”

Snyder warned that defunding IMPD could roll back advancements the department has made in diversifying its workforce.

“So we’re gonna have to have the tough discussions on where do we get the additional dollars from,” he said. “You can’t do it from the law enforcement that you’ve been defunding over many years already, because if you do, then you’re right back to the issue of recruitment and retention, and the first people that will be affected are the highly diverse workforce that we just spent years trying to hire.”

Proposal 196 to re-prioritize community crime prevention funding and the General Orders proposal will both come before the City-County Council in early August.

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