Faith leaders announce plan to form commission, outline recommendations in response to police action shootings

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News conference on April 18, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 18, 2018) — Pastors and leaders from the faith community announced plans to form a  committee and outlined several recommendation for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department during a news conference Monday.

They gathered to discuss the formation of the Interdenominational Presidents Commission (a group that includes the Baptist Ministers Alliance, Interdenominational Alliance, COGIC, Concerned Clergy, Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition and Baptist Minister’s Foresight Alliance).

“We’ve come together with a new idea called the Interdenominational Presidents Commission,” the Rev. Wayne Moore said. “We seek to try to develop a commission that will work with community and administration and be able to combat issues… and how we can go about and get resolution.”

It’s their response to the city’s latest police action shooting, which happened on April 5, 2016, and claimed the life of 44-year-old Kevin Hicks. Hicks’ wife pulled next to an IMPD car at a Marathon gas station to report that her husband was assaulting her. A physical altercation ensued; during the resulting fight, the officer, identified last week as Robert Carmichael, fatally shot Hicks.

Faith leaders planned to call for IMPD to release surveillance video of the incident and scheduled a news conference last week to discuss the incident. However, they cut their comments short after Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said his office wouldn’t release that video until the investigation was complete. According to IMPD, the video shows the fight but not the actual shooting.

The group introduced five recommendations for IMPD:

  • Body cameras for police officers
  • Implicit bias training for IMPD
  • Develop policies regarding release of video and audio recordings in police action shootings
  • Formation of accountability task force to get input from community
  • Halt on immediate release of someone’s criminal background when they’ve been involved in a shooting

“We felt strongly that one issue that could really help resolve any controversial matters concerning the citizens of Indianapolis and the men who have been sworn to protect and serve is the use of body cameras,” said Pastor Tom Glenn.

Glenn said it was for the protection of both officers and those they serve.

“This necessary tool could quell a lot of controversy in our community,” Glenn said, noting that body cameras were being used in other cities.

The Rev. Douglas Tate Jr. said the group was not intended to be adversarial; he hoped it would serve as a partnership with police. Tate spoke about implicit bias and the importance of training for officers.

“We want to ask and advocate that there be three things done to in the area of implicit bias. One, raise awareness of implicit bias among police leaders and officers. Two, transform the conversation between police and community. And three, put policies in place that will limit the painful and sometimes deadly impact of implicit biases.

“All of us are human, and we are innately born with some prejudices and some biases that we may not be aware of,” he said.

The Rev. Charles Harrison advocated policies for video and audio recordings in police action shootings. He cited San Francisco and Seattle as examples of cities that were proactive in formulating policies for the release of body camera and surveillance footage during investigations. He said other cities, like Baltimore, Chicago and Cincinnati were working on such policies.

“We would hope that this city would look at these proactive strategies that are being used by other cities so that we don’t have all of this speculation when it comes to these police action shootings,” Harrison said. “And we can certainly begin to build the trust between the police department and particularly communities of color.”

The Rev. David W. Green Sr. commended new IMPD Chief Troy Riggs for working to make his department more transparent and reach out to Indianapolis communities. He said information was being communicated more quickly.

Greene advocated the formation of a police accountability task force that would take impact from the community. It would include IMPD, the sheriff’s department, the Marion County Prsoecutors’ Office, the Citizens Complaint Board and the merit board, among other agencies. The task force would be modeled after a similar one in Chicago.

“We’re concerned about best practices,” Greene said. “Other cities are being successful, and we would like to see our city follow suit.”

Ideally, Greene said, the task force would collect information on police action shootings, traffic stops, vehicle searches, complaints and disciplinary actions.

Perhaps most controversially, Harrison called for an end to the immediate release of the criminal history of a person involved in a police action shooting. Harrison said the information can unfairly bias the community.

“The real concern that we have, and particularly when information comes out to the media… that the information that comes out tends to portray the victim of a homicide in a very unfavorable way,” Harrison said. “What it does, is it promotes old stereotypes, particularly of black males, that have been a part of this country throughout this history.”

Harrison mentioned the Hicks shooting specifically.

“The individual has been tried by the public before the investigation has been concluded,” he said. “We ask that police and media stop the unfavorable information that you give out to the community… we believe it taints any potential juror for the grand jury if all this negative information comes out.”

Harrison said that information—and information about the officer involved in the shooting—should be held back until the investigation is concluded.

“Then we will be able to assess what really happens without painting anybody in a negative light,” Harrison said.

The group held its news conference after a violent weekend around Indianapolis. Six people have died in shootings since Friday.

“We are plagued with homicides. We are infected with homicides,” Moore said. “One of the killings was 500 yards from this door.”

Moore viewed the group as a way to be proactive instead of reactive.

“I went to Ferguson. I saw the fallout in Ferguson,” Harrison said, referencing protests that followed the shooting of Michael Brown. “We don’t want this city to be a Chicago or Baltimore or Ferguson.”