Indianapolis leaders respond to nationwide calls to defund the police

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INDIANAPOLIS — There are calls across the country to defund police departments and some of those conversations are happening here in the Circle City.

It comes after members of the city council in Minneapolis pledged to disband its police department.

Even before protests in Indianapolis, city leaders claim they have been working on police reform. Now, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) has submitted a revised use-of-force policy and the General Orders Committee is looking at a proposal for a use-of-force review board.

ACLU of Indiana is calling for more. They want Mayor Hogsett to re-imagine the role of police in Indianapolis. Executive Director Jane Henegar said the city must shift resources away from law enforcement and towards black and brown community-based initiatives that support true safety, healthy and well-being.

“The ACLU is following the lead of black-led organizations in calling for a total re-imagining of the use of police in our community,” she said.

IMPD’s 2020 budget is $253 million and does not include pensions. It makes up about 30% of the city’s budget. That allocation of funds pays for an additional 1,500 officers and the implementation of a body camera program.

“If you look beyond the single word of the call to defund police we really see it is a call to re-imagine how we use police in our communities,” said Henegar. “It is calling for a divestment and reinvestment.”

This idea is different than what is happening in Minneapolis where some members of its city council are pledging to begin the process of ending the police department and create a new model for cultivating safety.

On Tuesday, IMPD Chief Randal Taylor said he does not agree with defunding police but he understood where the movement is coming from.

“What I do agree with however is finding more funds to work in the community to help the citizens who are dealing with job loss or education or those other systemic issues of racism,” said Chief Taylor.

The Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) weighed in too. Below is part of a statement sent to FOX59.

“With the discussions circulating nationwide on the move to “defund” police, our hope is our city does not fall into this regressive model.

While the raw emotion and anger over systemic injustices is real and valid, such a concept is counterproductive to what is our overall collective objective: Fair and Impartial Policing provided by well trained professionals who look like the community they serve… all with an intentional and additional focus to ensure any person of color is treated equally by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.”

Indy FOP said its law enforcement membership has worked in good faith with political leaders and residents to raise funds and claims the city is now approaching the “baseline” minimum staffing it needs to keep the community safe.

This conversation is also making its way to Washington, D.C.

“I am for better policing,” said Congressman André Carson (D-IN). “Now if we want to a lot funds to add mental health professionals to law enforcement that can deal with one police officers who are constantly dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, several issues of depression, removing the taboo in a lot of agencies that makes it ok for officers to seek help.”

One city-county council member explained he has received hundreds of emails on this topic.

A spokesperson for the council said it is unclear how many of these messages are from local constituents and how many are part of national email campaigns.

The council will take up the city’s 2021 budget process in August. That is when councillors will review all public safety spending.

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