ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — It’s not just big cities grappling with the Black Lives Matter movement and police conduct.
Zionsville, a town of 28,000 residents, had two incidents in 2019 when force was used. The department has also seen two “use of force” incidents in 2020.
Town leaders decided now was the perfect time to update their policies and make sure more citizens have a voice along the way.
“I don’t think the size of the organization has anything to do with how these matters are investigated and how they’re reviewed,” said Chief Mike Spears.
Spears has only been on the job since March. He said rather than just having supervisors report to him under the old policy, the policy calls for medical personnel to respond to any incident involving force and supervisors to go personally to investigate and take statements from everyone, including the subject and any witnesses.
A newly created use-of-force board will review the supervisor’s report and send it to the chief, who will present to the police commission.
The board will include two citizens, including one appointed by the mayor. Officials hope the inclusion of those citizens will provide transparency and confidence to the process.
“The layers are necessary,” Spears said. “Every time we have a use of force, we have to make certain that we’re doing it appropriately and that we’re providing the help and service that all persons involved need.”
Mayor Emily Styron, a Democrat elected in 2019, said even smaller communities can learn from other big cities. To those who ask why such a small place, where force is so rarely used, should make this change unprompted, she has her own questions.
“Why not? Why would one event not deserve the same care and attention and process that we see other large communities across the country taking?” Styron said.
The plan is to present the updated use-of-force policy to the police commission in July for approval. Several town council members also sit on the police commission.
“Our citizens deserve the best from our police officers,” Spears said. “They deserve professional conduct within the boundaries of the law, every hour of every day.”