Indianapolis councilors to consider police merit board changes

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Indianapolis City-County councilors will consider a proposal to change the makeup of the police merit board.

A proposal introduced to the council Monday night would add two merit board members, bringing the total from seven to nine. One member would be appointed by the council, while the other additional member would be appointed by a majority vote of IMPD members. The proposal would also stagger merit board members' terms.

"We want to hear from our community members but we also want a place in the legislative chute to address it should that time come," Council President Vop Osili said.

The proposal comes after councilors announced they would have community conversations on the merit board last week.

Earlier in the month, the merit board voted to allow two IMPD officers who shot and killed an unarmed man, Aaron Bailey, to keep their jobs. Police said in June 2017, Bailey fled from a traffic stop. They shot him when they thought his was reaching for a gun, though no weapon was found.  The board's decision drew outcry from some community members.

Monday night, community members upset with the proposal sat in the audience holding up signs with Bailey's name on them.

"You shouldn't say that you're going to talk to the community then do a proposal before you've even talked to the community, this is what we see with politicians time and time again," said Satchuel Cole, with the organization Don't Sleep.

Osili said by state statute, any change made to the merit board must have one third of members appointed by active members of law enforcement. He said community conversations are the priority.

He wrote in a statement, "No specific changes to any aspect of the IMPD Merit Board are expected until all those wanting a voice on the issue have been heard and consensus has been pursued. The purpose of Proposal 225 is to create a space in the legislative process for those ideas from the upcoming Community Conversations to be considered and processed through the appropriate channels as they are formalized."

Other councilors still had questions about the proposal.

"I'm afraid we're putting the cart before the horse in having this proposal already rolled out. Having said that, it'll be another opportunity for conversation. My concern is that the men and women of IMPD, they go out and they risk their lives everyday to make sure people go home safely, including themselves, and I want to make sure we don't disrespect their service to our city," said Indianapolis City-County Council minority leader Michael McQuillen.

Mayor Joe Hogsett released this statement Monday:

“After having spent time last week talking with community members and IMPD officers, it is clear to me that we must continue to have meaningful conversations that build bridges between our police department and Indianapolis neighborhoods. I appreciate that the Council shares in this sentiment, and recently announced plans to convene neighborhood discussions around these topics.

President Osili’s proposal would involve large changes to the Merit Board ordinance, and potentially significant effects on existing IMPD policies. I urge Council leadership to embrace a thoughtful, deliberative process – not a hurried reaction that could produce unintended consequences.”

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