IMPD responds to state training board letter regarding changes to use of force policy

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department says their policy is legally sound after the chairman of the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board (LETB) sent a letter to IMPD Chief Randal Taylor earlier this week.

The letter addressed on September 8 said the LETB believes the lesson plan violates a Supreme Court ruling dictated in Graham v. Connor. Now the LETB wants to talk to IMPD regarding modification of the lesson plan to comply with the ruling.

“We have is a very solid, very legitimate and very collaborative policy,” said Deputy Chief Kendale Adams.

Deputy Chief Adams said their policy meets the constitution and Indiana state law. The department plans to continue to train to it until told differently.

According to the letter from Chairman Doug Carter, who is also the Superintendent of Indiana State Police, an emergency executive session was held on Friday, September 4, and LETB learned about half of IMPD officers having already undergone in-service training under the lesson plan that has yet to be approved by the LETB.

Carter’s letter states Chief Taylor committed to LETB that the board would be allowed to review IMPD’s lesson plan prior to starting the in-service training, and LETB was led to believe no training would occur until 2021. Officers have been trained on a portion of the revised use of force policy for a few weeks.

It is making some wonder how this even happened since Chief Taylor is a member of the LETB.

Deputy Chief Adams explained the department is not aware of another time IMPD has had to send a policy or curriculum for approval.

“We are under no impression the board has authority to stop our policy,” he said. “Now there may be measures in place to do that, but we are not in a space where we think that is appropriate.”

Chief Taylor has been asked to set up a meeting with the board within the next two weeks. Superintendent Carter’s letter says LETB will expect the following topics, among others, to be addressed:

  1. Explain how the principles taught by the August 24, 2020 lesson plan comply with Graham v. Connor, specifically how “objective reasonableness” is not violated by this lesson plan.
  2. Explain how the principles taught by the lesson plan comply with the “proportionality” requirement, as defined by common law, and specifically how “proportionate force” (as defined in the August 24, 2020 lesson plan) does not negate or attempt to redefine the common law concept.
  3. Explain why an absolute prohibition to a “choke hold” and “lateral vascular neck restraint” may not be employed by a law enforcement officer in a deadly force situation.

Executive Director of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy Tim Horty said on Thursday the letter stands on its face, and training board has no further comment.

Taylor Shaffer, deputy chief of staff for the City of Indianapolis, sent the following statement:

“On Tuesday, Chief Taylor received a letter from the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board. In it, the Board appears to take issue with IMPD’s adoption of a new use-of-force policy that was crafted based on sustained community engagement and reflects national best practices of modern policing.

Based on our initial review, we have serious concerns that the Board’s letter contradicts relevant law and misstates the scope of its own authority. The Law Enforcement Training Board is tasked with setting minimum police-training standards that ensure constitutional limits are respected. We are not aware of any statutory authority that might allow the Board to prevent a police department from listening to community feedback and holding itself to a higher standard.

The decision made by Mayor Hogsett and Chief Taylor to update the city’s use-of-force policy has generated engagement and support from a broad coalition of Indianapolis residents, who have demonstrated an incredible willingness to work with IMPD and our hardworking police officers to improve our criminal justice system. We are also aware it has generated some criticism from those inside — and outside – our community who oppose efforts to bring national best practices to Indiana.

In the coming days, we will continue to work with the Board to help them better understand the department’s new policies and the relevant law, and provide the Board a more thorough response after we have completed our review of its letter.”

The letter was also sent to Vop Osili, president of the Indianapolis City-County Council. He shared the following statement on the letter.

“The changes to IMPD’s use-of-force policies reflect not only national best practices for policing, but the expressed wishes of the Indianapolis community. They also reflect Chief Taylor’s commitment to holding his department to a standard that centers the ‘public’ in ‘public safety’. I trust the Chief to implement officer training that meets the needs of our city.”

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