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Indiana’s Black Legislative Caucus unveils justice reform agenda

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In the midst of a nationwide movement, and the coronavirus pandemic, Indiana’s Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) wants justice reform for Hoosiers.

“We believe that today is different. We believe that now is the time,” said State Sen. Greg Taylor, an Indianapolis Democrat.

Thursday, the IBLC announced their Justice Reform Policy Agenda, laid out in five parts: Save Lives, Hold Accountable, Empower Communities, Change Culture and Improve Transparency.

The first, known as Save Lives, calls for things like banning no-knock warrants, and banning racial profiling. It would also decriminalize marijuana and remove resource officers from schools.

“All children need care vs. conviction. They need more guidance counselors and social workers to help them through difficult times,” said State Rep. Robin Shackleford, an Indianapolis Democrat.

The Empowering Communities section seeks the creation of a statewide citizen review board that reviews police misconduct cases. The Holding Accountable portion calls for things like continued police training.

“Not just in how to fire your firearm or how accurate you are to shoot something. But how you handle a health care situation, how you handle a mental health care situation,” said Taylor.

The Change Culture section of the agenda seeks changes like introducing legislation that requires officers to live in the city where they work and be assigned to those communities.

“According to guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice, assigning officers to neighborhoods or areas can help facilitate more contact between police and citizens and improve community relations,” said State Rep. Cherrish Pryor, a Democrat from Indianapolis.

Lastly, Improving Transparency would allow the tracking or monitoring of officer complaints.

“The last thing different agencies want is for one of their officers that has been a problem, to then be able to easily go to another agency or for them to take in someone that they don’t know has a history of problems,” said State Rep. Earl Harris, a Democrat from East Chicago.

The IBLC said the agenda was put together after talking with law enforcement, as well as Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, and participating in statewide virtual town halls.

“All of these categories are ways that we will ensure we answer the call of action by the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more,” said Shackleford.

Pryor also said in the wake of nationwide protests sparked by Floyd’s death, officers shared that they have feared retaliation of reporting colleagues for wrongdoing.

She said lawmakers will draft legislation that would establish a confidential whistleblower complaint process to shield officers from retaliation for sharing police misconduct information.

Shackleford said from now until December, the IBLC will work to figure out the next best steps for the 2021 session, whether that means introducing new bills or amending bills that already exist.