GOP councilor calls IMPD ‘scapegoat’ in riot response report

Crime in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS — The leader of the Republican Caucus of the Indianapolis City-County Council called a recent report on IMPD’s response to last spring’s civil unrest which led to violent rioting downtown “a little too bias” and an attempt to divert attention to what he referred to as the failed leadership of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett during the crisis.

Councilor Brian Mowery said in the report there was “no condemnation of what the rioters did” during two nights of violence in late May that left two men dead, more than 100 arrested and $8 million in property damage losses to the core of the city.

“We can’t just blame IMPD as a scapegoat,” said Mowery. “To me the report had too much of this, ‘blaming IMPD.’”

The report, by a three-member commission named by Mayor Hogsett, was mandated to review IMPD’s role in the days of unrest but not focus on the Office of Mayor Hogsett, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office or the participation of the demonstrators and rioters, though, the findings did come to some limited conclusions regarding the participation of those other entities and the community members.

“We need to be looking at all parties involved and not just a few parties,” said Mowery. “I think when you take a look at what the prosecutor’s office has been doing with their decisions on who and what to prosecute and not to prosecute, there’s been clearly not a lot of communication between the 25th floor and the prosecutor’s office to be on the same page with initiatives.”

The report faulted Hogsett’s administration and the office of the Marion County prosecutor for not conferring on the implementation of a curfew on May 31, which led to several arrests for curfew violations by IMPD that Prosecutor Ryan Mears declined to take to court.

Of 129 arrests that weekend, 102 cases were dropped.

During an exclusive interview with FOX59 Tuesday, Mears said it was not the role of his office to confer and develop law enforcement strategy with IMPD in advance of the civil unrest but rather act as a check on police powers.

The report found that tweets and limited public pronouncements by Mayor Hogsett for protests to remain peaceful were unheard or ignored by demonstrators.

“There wasn’t a lot of leadership coming out during all of this from the mayor’s office on how to handle this,” said Mowery. “Mayor Hogsett has called himself the ‘Public Safety Mayor’ time and time again, and if this report is believed at face value, he owns the destructions of these riots. At that point, the buck stops with him.”

During an exclusive interview with FOX59 Tuesday, the mayor paraphrased a written statement from last week that referred to recommendations by the commission for enhanced planning and training in advance of any future civil unrest.

“Each one of those recommendations were about what IMPD could have done better,” said Mowery. “There’s no condemnation of what the rioters did, the lack of action by the prosecutor’s office, the lack of action by the mayors office. Many things could have been done in this situation, but it seems it was left to go unhandled, and we’re left in the situation we’re in now.”

FOX59 has exclusively obtained 80 pages of police radio transcriptions from the first night of rioting.

The verbatim accounts of police advisements and calls for help indicate that IMPD deployed chemical spray for the first time on Monument Circle at 7:35 p.m., roughly two hours before witnesses and officers said the vandalism picked up speed and turned into rioting on downtown streets.

“We need to play the tapes, get the tapes,” said Rick Snyder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86. “We need to talk to the people that were actually involved.”

FOX59 has made multiple requests for recordings of police radio traffic and 911 calls which numbered nearly 8,000 in the 72 hours of the most unsettling civil unrest last spring. There’s no determination what percentage of those 911 calls were related to downtown violence and how many were typical calls for police assistance throughout the rest of the city.

“I think all participants would agree that more resources should be put toward public safety,” said Mowery. “I’ll definitely be using this report as a cornerstone toward increasing the public safety budget next year and think this only goes to show how important it is that we have adequately funded public safety.”

FOX59 reached out to virtually every member of the Democratic Caucus of the Council in a futile attempt to conduct an on-camera interview in response to the commission report.

Last Friday, Council President Vop Osili issued the following statement:

I want to thank former Federal Prosecutor Deborah Daniels, Dr. Sean Huddleston, and the Honorable Myra Selby for their service to the community and their work on the independent review panel tasked with thoughtfully investigating the events that unfolded in Indianapolis on May 29th – June 1st of last year. The Council will be equally thorough and thoughtful in reviewing their report. I look forward to our continued work with IMPD and the community to ensure the lessons learned from last summer result in real change as we continue to move forward to restore trust between our community and our law enforcement partners.

Council President Vop Osili

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