Indianapolis mayor announces partnership to reform policing services

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced a new partnership with the NYU School of Law Criminal Justice Lab in an effort to bring about “a new framework for a community-based, data-driven conversation about public safety and policing.”

“We hope this project can serve as the catalyst for a new, community-driven and community-monitored definition of justice and public safety. This is a defining moment in our nation’s history, and it must be met with a unified vision for the future of the city of Indianapolis,” said Mayor Hogsett.

At the top of the press conference, Mayor Hogsett announced an independent review in the police response to protests, separate from the IMPD review and the Marion County Prosecutor’s criminal investigation with the goal of providing a “transparent assessment of city policy and action.”

“Through this report, we will learn from what  has occurred, prepare ourselves for the future and provide answers to the questions that come up,” said Hogsett.

Hogsett was then joined by Anne Milgram of the Criminal Justice Lab during Monday’s announcement, along with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Chief Randal Taylor.

Officials said the partnership will bring together subject matter experts with local stakeholders, provide opportunities for public input coordinated by Community Solutions, Inc., and work to build consensus for swift action.

The partnership hopes to coordinate these responses with individuals, organizations, city agencies, and corporations wanting to contribute to change so that “Indianapolis’ work at this critical moment is unified and amplified.”

“A history of bias, racism and inequality in law enforcement has come to a critical junction that requires a swift response if we are to achieve justice and equity. We are witnessing this across the country, and we recognize the need for deep, systemic change to our police departments and public safety infrastructure,” said Professor Milgram. “What we propose is a partnership that redefines policing, justice, and public safety in Indianapolis, and forms metrics to hold government accountable for eliminating institutional bias, racism, and inequality and for improving community safety.”

Members with Indy10 Black Lives Matter are glad to see progress, but remain skeptical about the path. They want to see more of the community involved in these talks, and with a seat at the table.

“I think the plan sounds like a plan. I’d be interested to see how the plan is going to work. We know that when the city commits to something that doesn’t always translate into equity for the intended neighborhoods,” says Jessica Louise with Indy10 BLM, “Who is going to be represented? We don’t always want to see the same three to four organizations at the table making broad sweeping statements for what the people of Indianapolis need. Theres is value in having the mixture of both. Of course, you need representation of organizations who are there because they have access to the resources that can kind of drive some of these things forward. We also need input from people who’s lived experiences contribute toward what’s going on.”

Hogsett and Milgram provide the following five steps in the engagement program:

  1. The first step in the project will be a public-driven convening of community members, law enforcement, public defenders, health, education, social service, housing agencies, and others. This convening is necessary to create a new definition of justice and public safety that represents equitable and fair enforcement of the law.
  2. Once community stakeholders have defined justice and public safety for Indianapolis, the partnership will work with them to define the specific metrics to be collected and monitored. This will require several data analysts to be hired to work alongside the city agencies to ensure they have the capacity to collect and share the data required, which NYU will manage and fund. Metrics are critical as a means to hold law enforcement agencies accountable to the standard of equitable public safety defined by the community.
  3. The project requires, and the City is committed to, collecting and sharing relevant data.
  4. At various stages, the partnership will set forth and advocate for specific, consensus-driven policies before the City-County Council or other relevant agencies.
  5. Finally, the partnership will create a community-driven report card that is transparent and publicly accessible on the City’s website, ensuring members of the public have a mechanism to regularly hold city-county government accountable.

“The numbers aren’t everything,” says Louise addressing step two, “We need the people’s experiences. We need a collective effort to get access to those lived experiences, so they can influence the policy. It sounds good in terms of the community report card, but I’d be interested to see what communities are going to be represented in it. Is it going to be formerly incarcerated folks? Is it going to be homeless people? Going to be people who aren’t making a living wage right now, and having to work more than one job?”

Chief Taylor is currently rewriting IMPD general orders regarding “use of force” in the wake of the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the fatal police-action shooting of Dreasjon Reed in Indianapolis.

“We are in a critical juncture in our history … we need to do everything that we can to take advantage of it,” said Hogsett.

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