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IMPD adds new equipment, changes to riot response and communication with protesters one year after riots

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WISH) — The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is looking to move forward after analyzing how it handled the riots downtown last year after the killing of George Floyd and Dreasjon Reed. An independent review panel released a report and that is leading to changes.

IMPD says policing will continue to change as technology, communities and standards grow. Plus, how best practices can better serve the community. The department has put in place three new changes since Indianapolis saw outrage last May.

The city saw fire in the streets, heard sirens blaring and innocent people hurt on May 29-30 of 2020.

“We had over 12 officers injured, we had buildings destroyed, people’s apartment lobbies were set on fire and one lady’s leg was almost lost kicking through glass,” IMPD Special Operations Commander Brian Mahone said. “It’s traumatic and hit the heart of the city.”

A report released in February details repeated lack of guidance, communication and planning from police and the mayor that allowed downtown Indianapolis to be engulfed in flames and violent behavior last spring.

“I did not see that lack of communication,” Mahone said. “We had a law enforcement team and city team that were there to make those responses. I think maybe in the report some of the organization part, maybe some of the people didn’t quite understand how we do the communication and how something like that is fluid and changes. We’re not going to agree with everything in the report and we’re not supposed to.”

The report was from a three-person response review committee and released by Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office.

“Our political structure, who was responsible for making strategic decisions related to that, were unprepared and under trained and they lacked communication,” Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Synder said. “The report was generated, officers who even participated in good faith in that report, made very clear that not only did the report not fairly represent their statements, but often it misrepresented them to the fact that it was opposite of what the officer said.”

Commander Mahone says if something like this were to happen again, they would be better prepared. The department has added small fire extinguishers to officers equipment, created a better outline for scattering riot control agents and a communication plan to handle protesters.

“We need to do a better job communicating to people who are there to peacefully protest that it’s time for them to leave the area so they are not wrapped up in something that’s illegal,” Mahone said.

Police say they would will give future protesters warnings and time to leave while using downtown PA systems.

“When you have people yelling at you and throwing stuff at you in your town, that kind of takes a toll on you,” Mahone said.

The city also changed its police use of force policy soon after the riots. The new policy bans chokeholds were banned, although IMPD says there weren’t any incidents of that in the city.

During the riots, at the time of the riots, we watched as police used chemical spray and batons to try control of the crowds. The new policy says officers can use department-issued tasers, chemical spray and batons but the officer has to justify using any force.

“If we’re asking ourselves how to get better and we’re continuing to do that and we ask people to hold us accountable and we hold ourselves accountable, we can strive and grow our police department as we go in the future,” Mahone said.

One year later, Indianapolis is rebuilding physically and emotionally.

Mayor Hogsett’s office declined to be interviewed for this story.

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