INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana called on Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett to reallocate law enforcement resources and “reimagine” the role of officers amid nationwide outrage over police brutality and George Floyd’s death in police custody.
The ACLU’s proposed reforms do not involve a complete “defunding” or dismantling of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), which receives approximately one-third of the city’s budget.
Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, recommended slashing a portion of the police budget and reinvesting the funds in community-based initiatives, including health and education programs.
“[The city would be] investing in the social infrastructure that would result in less crime,” Henegar said. “We are asking that traditional policing be scrapped and that we begin again.”
She had no recommendations for how much money to reallocate; the mayor could determine the figure after reevaluating community needs, she suggested.
The ACLU did not name specific organizations or community programs that could benefit from reinvested police funds.
Henegar acknowledged the proposals were “bold” and unlikely to be productive unless implemented thoughtfully over an appropriate period of time.
She urged the mayor to consider immediate changes within the police department, including halting purchases of militarized equipment and the hiring of additional officers.
However, the city would still have armed law enforcement personnel under the ACLU’s reimagined policing model.
“We’re not talking about leaving people with no recourse if they’re threatened with violent crime or if their home is at risk of being broken into,” Henegar said. “We’re not asking them to abandon their duty to keep the public safe. We’re asking them to keep every member of the public safe.”
Rick Snyder, the president of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), slammed nationwide calls to defund police as “regressive” and suggested local communities could benefit from increased police funding.
“While the raw emotion and anger over systemic injustices is real and valid, such a concept is counterproductive to what is our overall collective objective: fair and impartial policing provided by well-trained professionals who look like the community they serve,” Snyder said in a statement to News 8. “We must identify ways to expand the pie of revenue; not simply shift the limited resources we currently use to operate within public safety… Our residents have made clear they want good policing, not less. It is reasonable to consider that, for far too long, we have not funded the level of police service we expect.”
In an emailed response to inquiries from News 8, the mayor’s office touted expanded funding for community programming and violence reduction, and highlighted plans to install police body cameras, add civilian members to IMPD’s use of force review board and update the department’s use of force policy.
The mayor’s office said “there is more work to do” but did not commit to changes proposed by the ACLU of Indiana.
“From day one, Mayor Hogsett has been committed to reimaging the criminal justice system and reinvesting in our community in order to address the root causes of violent crime. One of his first acts as mayor was the creation of the Office of Public Health and Safety – an office which seeks to take a holistic approach to the wellbeing, safety, and health of Indianapolis residents. Over the last four years, this office has nearly doubled the amount of funding and resources aimed a community programming and violence reduction efforts, in partnership with grassroots organizations.
Mayor Hogsett has marshaled public safety and health care resources to better address mental health and addiction, and prioritize treatment over jailing. This has included the launch of the Reuben Engagement Center, a first-of-its kind program for Indianapolis that seeks to divert those experiencing challenges related to mental health, addiction and homelessness out of the criminal justice system, the creation of the Mobile Crisis Assistance Teams (MCAT) program, which coordinates a joint law enforcement and health professional response to help individuals facing mental health challenges, and the construction of the Community Justice Campus. Slated to open later this year, the campus will include the Assessment and Intervention Center, a facility designed to divert non-violent, low-level offenders who are suffering from addiction and mental illness from jail and connect them with treatment and wraparound services.
Additionally, Mayor Hogsett has invested in a number of significant reforms that have radically reshaped the relationship between the IMPD and the community. From instituting mandatory bias training and creating an IMPD Office of Diversity and Inclusion to announcing diversion programs and the construction of a new Community Justice Center, the mayor has stepped boldly forward on criminal justice reform.
Over the last month, Mayor Hogsett has unveiled plans to install body cameras throughout the department by the end of the year, add civilian members to the use of force review board, make comprehensive changes to the use of force policy and review the current discipline matrix for officers.
This holistic response has, in many ways, already begun to reimagine public safety and the criminal justice system in Marion County. And with violence still impacting too many families in Marion County, it’s clear there is more work to do.”-Office of Mayor Joe Hogsett