2 citizens added to police use of force board in Zionsville

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ZIONSVILLE, Ind. — Civilian participation in policing has taken hold across the country and in central Indiana during the past several months.

While IMPD and the City-County Council debate a pair of plans to add citizen oversight to police boards, two civilians have been named to the new five-member police use of force board in Zionsville.

“I don’t have any concern at all about the involvement and the role that the civilians will play in terms of making the decisions,” said Zionsville Police Chief Mike Spears. “I think they will do the right things and I think our police officers will be supportive of them and the board will be supportive of the police officers.”

The two citizens with seats on the board are Kenneth Johnson, a local executive and U.S. Army veteran who was decorated with the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal with Valor during his service in Afghanistan, and Monisha Mitchell, a licensed therapist.

“We’ve got a clinician,” said Spears, “who will help us with mental health and behavioral types of incidents.”

The Indiana University Police Department has added citizen participation to a number of its boards and committees over the years.

“I think it’s really good for police because a lot of the things that people think we are aware of, we’re really not. So I think it’s important to have that voice to understand the different perspectives or really having an understanding of each other,” said Wayne James, IUPD Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement. “I think a lot of people have lost track of what community policing really is. Not only is community policing a philosophy but community policing is a shared responsibility between our police and our community.”

IMPD continues to negotiate the establishment of a citizen-majority Use of Force Board with the City County Council.

Chief Randal Taylor told councilors during a committee meeting Tuesday night that he initiated the plan to assign two citizens to the five-member board.

“So I put into motion that those two civilian appointments, whoever they would be, would indeed have the ability to vote.”

Taylor indicated that proposal has now morphed into a citizen-majority board to review IMPD Use of Force incidents, similar to a General Orders Board which was passed by the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee last night.

“My concern with this is that we’re going from my initial…which was the Use of Force Board which is not this but the same type of situation…that we’re going from zero to consideration of a few to now a majority.”

Taylor said he fears the pendulum of citizen control of IMPD swinging too far to override internal oversight of police department policies and actions.

The General Orders Board proposal passed the committee and has been referred to the full Council for consideration and implementation January 1st.

The Use of Force Board proposal is still being developed.

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