Council proposal would put civilian voices on board that determines IMPD policies

Above: Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett says the city is committed to reducing violent crime. (Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)

By Amelia Pak-Harvey | Indianapolis Star
July 16, 2020

Read the story and see additional photos at the source.

Indianapolis City-County Council members will introduce a proposal to fundamentally change how the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department creates its own policies, adding more public voices to the department’s appointed General Orders Committee.

The proposal seeks to add more community voices to police policy and follows national protests over law enforcement accountability spurred by police killings of Black people nationwide.

“It is incumbent upon us as councilors, as elected officials and community leaders to do everything within our authority to make sure that we are building that trust and relationship between our law enforcement partners and our community,” council member Keith Potts said at a news conference announcing the resolution on Thursday.

The proposal would establish a general orders board that would replace the existing three-member General Orders Committee. The committee approves department policy, which is codified in a 530-page General Orders document.

Those orders dictate how police officers do their job by outlining numerous procedures, such as forced entry to make arrests or other uses of force.

New contract

The proposal comes as the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police is set to expire at the end of 2020. The current committee, outlined in the FOP’s contract, consists of two members appointed by the IMPD chief and one by the union. That group must approve new general or special orders by a majority vote.

But the new general orders board would include community members and make its meetings public, operating under its own bylaws. The exact makeup of the board is undetermined but would still include representation from the FOP and the Police Department. Council members may debate the type of people to put on the new board during the ordinance process.

“Transparency is key in a trusted institution,” council member Crista Carlino said. “Let me be blunt: The status quo of the (General Orders Committee) is far from transparent.”

Carlino and Potts plan to introduce the proposal on Aug. 10.

Sa’Ra Skipper, who attended protests in Indianapolis, said the city needs to review its book on police response and the use of force.

“We need to reexamine these procedures that are being made internally,” Skipper said. “And with community members being able to be on this board, that can definitely happen.”

In a statement, IMPD said its officers remain focused on building community trust and addressing violence in the city’s neighborhoods.

“We look forward to talking with these two councilors about their vision for greater community input, even as we work toward those goals in other areas,” the statement read.

FOP President Rick Snyder did not return a request for comment.

Public safety changes

Also on Thursday, Indianapolis police and city officials highlighted various safety initiatives as the city deals with an increase in criminal homicides, which are up 39% compared with this time last year.

“Make no mistake, despite the challenges of 2020, the men and the women of IMPD, the men and the women of our Office of Public Health and Safety and thousands of community members remain steadfastly committed to abolishing violence in our city,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a later news conference Thursday.

The changes include increasing police beats from 78 to 106 and deploying police body cameras beginning the first week of August.

It also includes a shift to hyperlocal hot-spot policing. Beat officers assigned to a certain area must spend a proscribed amount of time connecting with the community.

“You may see a cop sitting somewhere for no apparent reason in your mind, but these are all areas where we’ve seen an increase or we’ve seen a cluster of our nonfatal shootings and homicide incidents,” Deputy Chief Chris Bailey said. “And so we want them to spend more time in those neighborhoods getting to know the people that we serve.”

Preliminary city data show nonfatal shooting incidents and victims also increased from last year. Overall crime, however, has decreased by 11%.

The city is also partnering with the Domestic Violence Network to fund hotel stays, food vouchers and other services for residents who are stuck in dangerous living situations due to the pandemic.

Call IndyStar reporter Amelia Pak-Harvey at 317-444-6175 or email her at apakharvey@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmeliaPakHarvey.

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