Caption: Clyde Posley’s nomination to the General Orders Board stirred debate among the committee when Republican councilors raised concerns. (Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)
By Elizabeth DePompei | Indianapolis Star
March 16, 2021
A new civilian-majority board tasked with overseeing police policy in Indianapolis has its seventh and final appointment.
The General Orders Board will be able to adopt, interpret and amend policies for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. The new board was adopted by the City-County Council in October, after months of local and national protests spurred in part by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The new policy board was created to increase accountability and transparency in policing, but some critics question whether civilians are equipped to handle such a task. Four of the board’s seven members are civilians appointed by elected leaders.
Two civilians are appointed by the mayor and two by the president of the City-County Council, with council approval. Two members are appointed by the police chief, and one by a vote of active IMPD officers organized by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86. Members are appointed for a term of two years.
On Friday, IMPD announced FOP members’ choice, filling the last open seat on the board.
Over the past several weeks, IndyStar requested interviews with the six members who had already been appointed. All declined the requests. IMPD denied IndyStar’s request Friday to interview the newest appointment.
Here’s what we know about the board and its seven members.
How the board will work
General orders are the written policies that govern how IMPD officers carry out their jobs. Examples of general orders include when and how to use force, how to handle complaints from the public and body camera protocols. There are roughly 540 pages of general orders.
If an officer violates a general order, they can be subject to discipline, including suspension or termination. While the new board will be able to create, amend and interpret orders, whether an officer should be disciplined will remain up to the chief, subject to the approval of the Civilian Police Merit Board.
The former IMPD policy board was made up of two members appointed by the chief and one member by the FOP, with no civilian representation. Meetings were held internally and closed to the public.
The new board will be subject to Indiana’s Open Door Laws, requiring notices of meetings that will be open to the public. The board is to “meet as often as necessary,” according to the ordinance. A minimum of four members must be present to conduct board business.
All civilian members must undergo training, including completing the Citizen’s Police Academy, 16 hours of ride-alongs, training on general orders and applicable laws and 16 hours of annual continuing education.
City-County Council’s appointments
City-County Council President Vop Osili was the first to put forth appointments: Indiana University criminal law professor Lahny Silva and Clyde Posley, senior pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church.
Osili sent his appointments first to the Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee for a vote and later to the full council. Posley’s nomination stirred debate among the committee when Republican councilors raised concerns with social media posts they said were anti-police and partisan.
During that meeting, Posley responded by saying he has pastored police officers, civilians, Democrats and Republicans for decades.
“My 32 years of work speaks to my commitment to be diverse and open to the notion that the best Indianapolis is a culturally unified Indianapolis,” he said at the hearing.
The council ultimately voted 20-5 along party lines to approve the appointment.
Posley, a member of Faith in Indiana, advocated for the new board prior to being appointed. He previously told IndyStar the board “is not an indictment of the police … but rather an opportunity for the police to include those who they say they hear and want to protect and serve.”
In a statement provided to IndyStar on Monday, Posley said he hopes the new board “helps alleviate the fear or mistrust between Black men, in particular, and law enforcement officers.”
“I hope throughout my tenure and that of the first cohort of Board members, people begin to see there’s nothing to be afraid of in how the General Orders are being formed; that the community begins to believe they are being seen and heard and that General Orders reflect that,” he wrote.
Silva, an attorney and professor at IU’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law IUPUI, received unanimous support with little discussion from the committee or the full council.
According to her IU bio, Silva has participated in the Re-Entry and Community Help (REACH) Legal Assistance Program since 2015. The program allows people who were incarcerated to take part in monthly hearings designed to help with substance abuse problems, repairing family relationships and employment.
Silva said in a statement that she hopes the board “can help ease community tensions by providing transparency, improving accountability, and creating a real sense of trust in our police department.
“We will build that trust by fulfilling our obligation to the community to ensure that the rules governing IMPD police officers are well-defined, accessible to the public, and reflective of best practices and current laws,” Silva continued.
Mayor Joe Hogsett’s civilian picks
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Feb. 5 his appointments: Jasmin French and Chrystal Ratcliffe.
French is a lawyer and senior manager of Ethics and Compliance for Columbus-based Cummins. She is a member on the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art’s Board of Directors and is a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy in Indianapolis, according to Hogsett’s office.
French said in a statement to IndyStar that she looks forward to bringing her experience as a lawyer to the board, “having developed a strong skill set in developing and evaluating policies; creating transparent, ethical procedures; and applying sound legal reasoning towards solutions to complex problems.”
French, a downtown resident, said she has “a deep affection for Indianapolis and (I) want to do my part to enhance public safety in our community.”
Ratcliffe is the president of the Greater Indianapolis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the fourth vice president for the Indiana NAACP. She is a retired United Auto Workers union activist.
In a statement to IndyStar, Ratcliffe said she believes civilian voices “must be heard as IMPD examines its policies and seeks to rebuild trust with the people it serves.”
“Law enforcement officials who participate in misconduct or brutality need to be held accountable. We must start by examining existing IMPD policies that govern the use of force, racial profiling and the use of military equipment on our streets.”
Ratcliffe has previously addressed high-profile police incidents in Indianapolis. After an IMPD officer fatally shot 21-year-old Dreasjon Reed on May 6, 2020, Ratcliffe urged the community to remain calm and “allow the process to proceed.”
When a grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot Reed, Ratcliffe again asked for calm and said the NAACP “appreciates the transparency of the investigation and giving the community as close to a full disclosure as permitted by the law.”
Law enforcement representation
Also on Feb. 5, IMPD Chief Randal Taylor appointed former chief Bryan Roach and IMPD Capt. David Robinson.
Robinson has been an Indianapolis police officer for 25 years and is an Army veteran. Since joining the department in 1995, Robinson has not faced any disciplinary actions, according to IMPD personnel records.
IMPD did not grant IndyStar’s request to interview Robinson and did not provide a statement beyond the news release announcing his appointment.
Roach was with Indianapolis police for 28 years and most recently served as IMPD’s chief from 2017 until his retirement in late 2019. He did not return IndyStar’s message seeking an interview.
IMPD characterized Roach’s tenure as one “marked by an emphasis on criminal justice reform and a community-focused, grassroots public safety strategy.” IMPD also noted the creation of the Mobile Crisis Assistance Teams and the launch of the Crime Gun Intelligence Center under Roach.
Roach was tested in his first year as chief when in June 2017 two IMPD officers fatally shot 45-year-old Aaron Bailey, an unarmed black motorist who fled a traffic stop. Roach tried to fire the two officers, but the Civilian Police Merit Board overruled him, finding the officers did not violate policy or training.
Ratcliffe, the NAACP president, called the merit board’s decision “disturbing” and questioned “whether the accountability to the community is merely superficial when an officer violates established police procedures.”
The final appointment came on Friday when IMPD announced Sgt. Kevin Kendall was voted by members to serve on the board. Kendall began his law enforcement career in 1996 as a road patrol officer with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, which later merged with the Indianapolis Police Department to form IMPD. In 2014, he was promoted to sergeant and is assigned to Northwest District road patrol.
IndyStar requested Kendall’s personnel records Friday.
Contact IndyStar reporter Elizabeth DePompei at 317-444-6196 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @edepompei.