After a year of meetings, the Working Group convened by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee to review the police civilian review process has completed its deliberations. Most–but not all–of its recommendations have been incorporated…
After a year of meetings, the Working Group convened by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee to review the police civilian review process has completed its deliberations. Most–but not all–of its recommendations have been incorporated into a City-County Council ordinance which has been introduced by Toby McClamroch(R) and Rozelle Boyd(D).
The bipartisan sponsorship has not operated to shield the proposal from vigorous criticism from both ends of the spectrum. Councilors who have blocked reform in the past are unhappy because the new ordinance would allow civilian review of fatalities and police action shootings. Community activists are unhappy because the civilian review board will not have authority to override disciplinary decisions of the Chief, and because appointees to the new board are not required to be drawn from a specified pool of neighborhood representatives.
The proposal makes a number of substantive changes to the current, relatively toothless process. For the first time, it allows review of "unauthorized force" and police-related fatalities. It allows filing of a separate complaint for "intimidation tactics used to impede the filing of a complaint." Unlike current practice, it does not require the complainant to file in person at the City-County Building, but allows submission by mail or fax. And unlike current law, the Board itself may initiate an action.
Sworn officers may no longer serve on the complaint board, and the board itself, rather than the Mayor, will designate its President. The Executive Director will no longer have the authority to "filter" complaints by deciding which have sufficient merit to be considered.
Once the board has communicated its disposition of a complaint to the Chief, if the Chief disagrees, the board may require mediation between the Chief and the Executive Director. Disciplinary action taken must be communicated to the public.
Officers who are the subject of complaints have the right to be represented by an attorney. They must be given access to the complaint process, in order to defend their actions during both the investigation and the hearing.
Is the proposal perfect? Certainly not. But it reflects a good faith compromise between those who fear over-reaction by civilians unfamiliar with the realities of police work and citizens who have lost trust in the ability of IPD to police itself, much less our neighborhoods.
What will happen if there is a stalemate between the Chief and the Board? What if the "mediation" required by the new ordinance fails? Legally, the Chief has the final authority, and some members of the Working Group find that unacceptable. I understand their concerns; however, whether those concerns are justified will ultimately depend upon all of us. The Chief answers to the Mayor; the Mayor answers to the citizens. We will get the police department we demand.
It is a rare proposal that satisfies everyone, but this proposal represents a significant step forward. The City-County Council should pass it, and begin a much-needed process of healing the wounds between IPD and the citizens it serves.