INDIANAPOLIS — Almost a year ago, Monument Circle was the center for downtown Indianapolis protests calling loudly for police reform.
Almost a year later, those chants have been replaced by the calm discussion of the divisive proposal to defund IMPD.
“I think we’re making some headway, and phrases like ‘defund’ scared a lot of people, but it also moved the needle in terms of the conversation about real change beyond any one case or any one bad apple cop, and we need to deal with the real fundamental issues and the systems behind what are really impacting people,” said Mat Davis of the Indiana Racial Justice Alliance just before he began a teach-in for about 20 people Sunday afternoon.
“Because whatever you defund from public safety, you have to be a good steward of in other parts of the budget,” Davis continued. “The budget is a moral document for the city, so where are we showing our priorities? Certainly not in crime prevention and real public safety because we wouldn’t be giving so much money to the cops.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett increased IMPD spending by about $7 million in the 2021 municipal budget, which was introduced less than two months after social injustice protests devolved into riots that left two people dead, more than 100 arrested and approximately $8 million in property damages and city costs last spring.
“The budget is a moral document, so we show our priorities like crime prevention and real public safety by things like employment and workforce. If someone is gainfully employed, they are not doing robberies or caught up in the drug economy,” said Davis. “There is something fundamentally wrong with the system. There is no amount of training or reform will do it. We need to fundamentally reform the way we look at safety and the way we look at law enforcement of that public safety.”
The Indiana General Assembly just wrapped up its most recent legislative session having voted unanimously for several police reform measures and allocating $70 million to improve law enforcement training statewide.
In Indianapolis, IMPD is emphasizing more de-escalation techniques for its officers while additional civilian oversight of the department will begin in the next couple months.
During a community conversation on policing in the Martindale-Brightwood area Saturday night, IMPD Chief Randel Taylor told the audience in a pre-taped statement that, “It’s not always on the police. The community has to participate in this as well. We have to work hand-in-hand in order to get where we want to be.”
Back on Monument Circle, one woman who attended the teach-in said that while she was heartened by last week’s conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd last spring, she was still “… concerned that people will point to that, and already are, as an example of how the system works, which is I think kind of misguided. Just because someone has been found guilty does not mean that the system works.”