INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There will soon be new oversight of police in Indianapolis. On Monday, the City-County Council passed a proposal that adds civilians to the group that oversees police policy.
Proposal 237 creates a 7-person General Orders Board to help write policing rules and policies for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD). It will add four civilians to the current three law enforcement officers on the previous General orders Committee.
Just before midnight on Monday, the City-County Council voted 20-5 in favor of proposal 237, but there was a lot of debate.
“We are here for the public and public safety. And we should work together for that,” said Councillor Jessica McCormick, District 15.
“It should be evident you support IMPD by your actions, but unfortunately that’s not what this does,” said Councillor Joshua bain, District 20.
The mayor, council and police chief will each appoint two members to the civilian board; the Fraternal Order of Police will appoint the final member.
An amendment also passed that prohibits civilian members with felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions, involving bodily injuries, from serving on the General Orders Board.
The plan is in stark contrast to the department’s current General Orders Committee, which consists of three members appointed by police. The reason behind adding civilians is to provide accountability and other perspectives to IMPD policy. Supporters of the plan say it’s an important step to hold officers accountable, while opponents worry it could hurt police morale.
“We know that when the police and their supports are in charge are in charge of transparency and accountability, that falls to the wayside,’ said Jessica Louise, with Indy 10 Black Lives Matter.
“Why don’t we push pause to allow for that input to occur? We are confident middle ground can be found where we can get a successful passage that everybody can live with,” said Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder.
Vocal opponents of “Prop 237” include IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, Ten Point Coalition leader Charles Harrison and Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder.
Critics noted the distribution of power on the General Orders Board creates a 4-3 voting majority for members appointed by the mayor and council, essentially stripping the chief of his authority over internal decisions.
The proposal comes on the heels of nationwide protests against police brutality and calls for reimagined, community-focused policing.
But Rev. Charles Harrison, a community leader who supports civilian-led violence prevention efforts, feared Prop 237 would erode public safety.
Passage of the proposal could lead to resentment among officers and widen gaps between law enforcement and community members, he said.
“I’ve heard that we could lose up to 150 to 200 officers next year if this passes,” Harrison told News 8, citing what he described as an internal IMPD survey shared with him by high-ranking department officials.
IMPD Chief Randal Taylor could not confirm the figures and said he was not aware of such a survey.
Paul Annee, minority whip and representative for council district 23, echoed Harrison’s concerns about the proposal’s impact on police morale and public safety.
“We’re not trying to kill 237, necessarily. We want to kill it as it is,” he said. “It leaves the policies of the department to political appointees and it replaces professional policing with partisan politics.”
IMPD Chief Randal Taylor issued the following statement through a department spokesperson:
“IMPD has listened to recent calls for change in policing and public safety, and taken steps to better reflect the way our community wants us to serve. And we recognize the need for civilian participation in our processes, for it is only when we all work together that we will see the improvement in public safety that our community deserves. That’s why we have created a higher standard for use of force, banned the dangerous practice of no-knock warrants, and are implementing a permanent body-worn camera program. It’s also why we are finalizing the new Use of Force Review Board with significant civilian participation, which will have the authority to review any use of force by an IMPD officer. We remain dedicated to moving IMPD and our city forward and will continue our ongoing discussions with the City-County Council and the members of our community to ensure we are best serving the people of Indianapolis.”