Hogsett to initiate independent review of protests, partners with NYU for data-driven justice reform

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Mayor Joe Hogsett on Monday afternoon said he will initiate an independent review of protests and riots in the city from late May into early June.

The review will look at the city’s processes for public safety and criminal justice with plans to focus on prevention over enforcement.

He also will start a partnership with New York University to bring together added data and create a “new path forward” in criminal justice in the city with “equitable treatment under the law.”

The mayor noted Monday, “Two tragic murders are still under investigation. Video footage has revealed police-protester interactions that have shocked our community and raised legitimate questions about the policies that produced those moments.”

He said the independent review will be separate from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s administrative review of the officers’ alleged conduct, and the Marion County prosecutor’s criminal investigation.

The goal is to have a “transparent and frank assessment of law enforcement actions” during the protests and a way to create reforms for the future. Hogsett said he will soon announced the leadership structure of the independent review and then give those leaders the resources they need.

The leaders’ report will learn what has occurred, better prepare the city for the future, and get questions as to what has arisen, the mayor said.

The mayor on Monday also announced a partnership between the city and the New York University School of Law’s Criminal Justice Lab. It will bring together public health stakeholders, public defenders, health workers, educators, law enforcement, social service agencies, housing agencies and others.

Anne Milgram, an NYU law professor and former New Jersey attorney general, said during Hogsett’s news conference, “There is so much happening in the community that we have to both figure out how to look at what’s been happening with the protests, with the police shooting, and separately start this conversation with the criminal justice system as a whole and really how can we reenvision it.”

Milgram is partially credited for reforms that turned Camden, New Jersey, once known as the most dangerous city in America, in to a model city for police and crime reform.

The Indianapolis partnership also will broaden the data used to define public safety, the mayor said. Arrest records and crime statistics are necessary, but the data should also include the rates of high school graduation, substance abuse and mental health. Data analysts will help track and monitor this data. Findings will be used to hold public safety and other city agencies accountable, but those agencies will be “held to a standard that is defined by the community.”

“I realize that on paper that may sound bureaucratic and academic … but it won’t be. It can’t be, because the ultimate goal here isn’t to analyze, but to act,” Hogsett said.

The mayor also said public safety policies will be adjusted based on the data. “I’ve made it clear to the City-County Council and city leadership that nothing is off-limits. We must let the scope of the challenge dictate the boldness of the changes necessary to address it.”

The partnership also will generate “community-driven report cards, ensuring members of the public that they can hold city-county government accountable for the changes that we make,” Hogsett said.

“Recent events have revealed scars of mistrust that have existed between communities of color and city government for a long time. It is important that we in positions of power recognize that. It is also important that those of us who do not know this mistrust firsthand still know where it comes from so this moment is not misinterpreted. There are black residents living in Indianapolis today who were denied admittance to city pools when they were children in the 1960s. There are black residents alive today who saw their neighborhoods bulldozed for the interstate back in the 1970s. There are black residents today who remember the protests surrounding Michael Taylor (a 16-year-old car-theft suspect shot while in police custody) in 1987. I could go on. But my point is this: The mistrust we see today has roots that are both shallow and deep. If any resident feels mistrust is unwarranted and you haven’t heard of the examples I just mentioned, you have an obligation to learn from and a responsibility to listen to your community. A black child in a tough neighborhood should not suffer greater consequences for the same mistake suffered, or made, by a white child in a wealthy neighborhood. However, when we look at the data, very often that is indeed the case. Well, now the data will be part of the process, and when inequities are revealed, we must act.”

Previous city actions to change public safety policies

Previously, city officials had begun working to create an updated Use of Force policy for the police department, a review of IMPD’s progressive discipline matrix, and an expansion to the city’s Group Violence Intervention strategy.

The mayor’s office says over the last four years the department has increased the diversity of its recruiting classes while growing the number of neighborhood beats, promoting more localized community policing.

In 2017, IMPD created an Office of Diversity & Inclusion and instituted implicit bias training for all officers. 

The department has also participated in 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.

In 2019, Hogsett and the City-County Council included $1.2 million in the 2020 budget to fund the rollout of a body-worn camera program for all IMPD officers.  Implementation of the program will begin in the third quarter of this year, with a goal to outfit 100 officers per week with the technology.

News 8’s Richard Essex contributed to this report. See his report below. App users can see it on the online story.