Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police responds to calls for law enforcement reform

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The leader of a local law enforcement organization said reform-minded police officers and “Black Lives Matter” protesters shared several key objectives during an interview on WIBC-FM 93.1’s “Hammer and Nigel Show.”

Rick Snyder, president of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), joined Jason Hammer and Nigel Laskowski Thursday for a wide-ranging, hour-long interview that included questions from listeners and social media followers.

“We are not your enemy; we are risking our lives to protect people we don’t even know,” Snyder said, when asked how he would address protesters outraged over George Floyd’s death in police custody.

He defended qualified immunity for police and slammed proposals to “defund” or dismantle law enforcement agencies but said he supported protesters’ calls for increased investment in crime prevention; productive dialogue between civilians and officers; renewed focus on building relationships and trust within communities; thorough investigations into allegations of excessive police force; and expanded use of police body cameras.

“People forget it was the FOP that called for body-worn cameras,” Snyder told listeners. “We called for them before the mayor did, before the [City-County] Council did and, quite honestly, before many of our residents did.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett announced plans to install body cameras throughout the police department by the end of 2020 following numerous complaints among residents. 

Indianapolis was previously the largest city in the nation without police body cameras.

“Get us the damn cams!” Snyder said, emphasizing each word by hitting the studio table.

He also issued an impassioned plea to protesters intent on fueling conflict between community members and police; civilians and officers must recognize they “want a lot of the same things,” he said.

“Our officers and our residents have the most in common,” Snyder explained. “They are the only ones in our neighborhoods throughout the community 24 hours a day. It is often other people who come into that situation and drive a wedge between the officers and the residents. The riots were a great example of that.”

The violence and destruction that ravaged downtown Indianapolis during the final weekend of May were “unacceptable,” he said.

Snyder also addressed a viral video clip recorded May 31 by News 8’s Richard Essex during the mayor’s first curfew order aimed at preventing further riots. 

The footage shows IMPD officers shooting rubber bullets and striking a woman with batons while attempting to take two people into custody.

“The use of force never looks good… it’s force, right?” Snyder said. “Unfortunately, in law enforcement you sometimes have to use force to effectuate the lawful arrest, detainment [or] whatever it may be of someone.”

The four officers involved were reassigned after the video clip was aired by News 8.

Marion County prosecutor Ryan Mears launched an investigation into their conduct and said he was considering criminal charges against the officers.

Snyder pushed for a “firm, fair and consistent” investigation and said he disapproved of prosecutors commenting on pending cases.

“We all own a piece of this puzzle,” Snyder said. “But if we continue to yell and scream and point fingers at one another, we’ll never make any ground.”

Indianapolis FOP president Rick Snyder addressed concerns about “over-policing” during the live radio segment. (WISH Photo/Julia Deng)