It’s been almost eleven months since George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, and protests calling for police reform led to riots that wrecked downtown Indianapolis, but community activists say IMPD has heard the call for change and has adapted its training.
“We’re in the second week of our spring in-service training for the veteran officers here at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department,” said Training Academy Commander Catherine Cummings. “Some of the topics we are covering in this current in-service have to do with de-escalation, time distance barriers, talking to people who are in crisis.”
Cummings said officers are utilizing additional techniques in encountering persons with diagnosed mental health challenges.
“We’re talking about how do officers identify someone who may be living with Alzheimer’s, who may be living with autism and, more importantly, how do our officers more effectively communicate with people who may have Alzheimer’s, may have autism, may be in crisis, may not be in crisis.”
In an attempt to reduce opportunities when encounters may escalate to the use of deadly force, IMPD is training with a Bolawrap device, a non-lethal tool that disables a person with a ropelike wrapping.
“The idea behind it is, if we’re engaging with someone who may have a knife or a hammer or a screwdriver, it gives our officers another tool to work to de-escalate the situation, to work to safely take someone into custody who may have a knife or some other type of dangerous instrument.”
IMPD is training officers to consider time and distance along with conversation in an attempt to lessen the likelihood of an encounter with an upset person to spin out of control.
Chokeholds, which were never taught at the Academy, have been banned except in the most extreme life-or-death struggles and IMPD no longer conducts no-knock search warrants.
The changes in training, along with more citizen oversight on IMPD’s General Orders and Use of Force boards, please community leaders who have been lobbying for reform.
“We are having the right conversations and we are seeing that progress,” said John Gaidoo, co-author of a police reform report issued by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee earlier this year. “There are weekly meetings going on and there is work going on between those meetings and we’re talking to the legislature, we’re talking to government officials and we’re talking to the police and we’re making things better.”
Nia-Hyatt Eldosougi of Black Women in Charge has visited IMPD’s Training Academy and talked with recruits.
“I think the police department has been very cooperative in access in what they do with their mission and just being very transparent with us through the process,” she said. “I know for one they definitely need to have a stronger focus on interpersonal communication skills because when we spoke with the officers at the training academy, every single one of them said that that was their biggest issue and as an officer dealing with people is something very important to be a master of.”
BWC will offer proposed revisions to IMPD’s General Orders, the rules by which the department operates.
A citizen member of that board told Fox 59 News that he has already begun his training and looks forward to ride-alongs with officers so that the Board may soon begin reviewing IMPD’s General Orders.