INDIANAPOLIS — A new online portal aimed at achieving further police transparency in Indianapolis will show officers’ names and badge numbers, along with formal complaints judged by the Citizens Police Complaint Board for those officers with complaints filed against them.
This “transparency portal” goes online on Oct. 1, the board’s executive director said.
The portal will be updated monthly with the previous month’s complaint information.
“So if Officer X got a complaint that successfully made it through the board, then that result will make it to this transparency portal,” said Duane Ingram, president of the Citizens Police Complaint Board. “That means if it’s sustained, meaning the offense happened, the offense actually happened and was proven in the investigation, not sustained meaning it didn’t happen, or exonerated meaning it happened but it was lawful. Those three recommendations will be posted on this transparency portal.”
People can file a complaint with the Citizens Police Complaint Office against an officer for an alleged incident involving an officer using profanity or abusive language, intentionally destroying personal property, using unauthorized force, exceeding his/her authority as an officer or acting in violation of the department’s rules and policies.
On Aug. 10, the Indianapolis City-County Council passed the measure, which approved significant changes to the Citizens Police Complaint Board’s process and the office itself. The proposal creating the transparency portal lays out the way a formal complaint is handled.
It states the director is to send a copy of the complaint to either the chief of police or some the chief designates. The officer or officers in the complaint also receive a copy.
As IMPD runs an internal investigation, an independent investigator employed by the board will run a simultaneous investigation as well. The proposal does note the independent investigator works in collaboration with internal affairs.
The addition of an independent investigator is one of the changes to the CPCO. Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis President David Greene agrees this is a necessary addition.
“There clearly needs to be an independent investigator,” Greene said. “You can’t ask the police to investigate the police. Then people [don’t] feel like that’s a fair process. It puts a lot of people in a bad situation obviously as a police officer, if you’re investigating one of your own and also having the community [ask] was that really a fair process if they investigated themselves? Having an independent investigator will definitely make a difference.”
When the department returns its investigation to the complaint board, a change recently approved is the complainant and the officer or officers allegedly involved will now have five minutes to address the complaint board in a public meeting.
“So their voices can be heard throughout this process,” Ingram added.
One final change comes with an extension of time for complainants to file a complaint against an officer, extending that time frame from 60 days following the alleged incident to 180 days.
Former IMPD officer turned law student Christopher Wilburn said the changes are not necessarily a large move toward transparency, but an addition to what the board’s already done.
“I would put this in a place where we’ve been before,” Wilburn said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m pessimistic but we’ve heard these promises before. These things are important, yes, but they’ve been promised before and they haven’t really culminated into a paradigm shift into the internal culture of the IMPD.”
Wilburn added time will tell whether these changes make a difference in our community. Office Executive Director Gina Beaven said from June to now, 15 complaints have been filed.
“The thing is that you want to look at a statistical variance in terms of like, where were we this time, how have we improved,” Wilburn explained. “Have we see complaints arise, or rise, or fall with the cultural tides of our country?”
We did reach out to IMPD for an interview regarding these changes and this report, they respectfully declined the request.