INDIANAPOLIS — Indy’s Citizens’ Police Complaint Board members are still not meeting their required training hours, years after a FOX59 Investigation found that nearly all members of the board were not meeting the training and ride-along hours as required under city code.
This is a trend that has continued for years.
FOX59 first reported the problem in October 2020. Members of the board were still making decisions involving alleged police behavior in the presence of citizens despite not meeting police procedure training and ride-along hours.
The Citizens’ Police Complaint Board is a group of volunteers who reviews investigations of complaints made against Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers. Then, board members vote to either agree or disagree with IMPD’s conclusion.
After training requirement issues were brought to his attention in 2020, then-Deputy Mayor David Hampton promised things would change.
“I think they’ve been able to do their jobs with the review process of police complaints and it hasn’t hindered that process,” Hampton said in 2020.
“But, Deputy Mayor, if they are making these decisions, what are they basing their knowledge on,” FOX59 questioned.
“I don’t want to make any excuses for the board,” Hampton said. “But I can assure you, we’re working together with not only the city council, but the board and the office to ensure that going forward the training takes place as it should and that we don’t have these gaps.”
But, public reports of board members’ training hours show the issues were not resolved. A check of public documents shows hardly any board members met the required training hours from 2018 to 2021, and they show representatives must step up their efforts to meet the requirements in 2022.
Voting members of the board must complete 20 hours of training and 16 hours of ridealongs with IMPD officers. City code says members must complete 20 hours of police procedure training within 6 months of their appointment and an additional 20 hours each year of their terms.
The rules state each board member must ride along with an IMPD officer for a minimum of 16 hours per year, broken up into four-hour rides. But, some board members recorded zero hours of training and ride-alongs for the year, yet remain on the board.
“The rules are the rules,” Councilor Paul Annee, a Republican from District 23, said, “While we want to be as flexible, I think, as we can, this is a volunteer board and therefore we understand people have busy schedules, folks have to be meeting those hours or coming very close to them.”
The most egregious example of issues with the training and ride-along hours is that of Board Vice President Michael Bryant. Public records show no training hours completed in 2018 and merely 4 hours of ridealongs.
Documents show only ten hours of training in 2019 with zero ride-along hours. In 2020, zero hours of ride-along and training hours were recorded for Bryant.
In 2021, 16.5 hours of training were recorded with zero hours of ridealongs. The first quarter training report shows Bryant’s trained for two hours so far in 2022.
Bryant was re-appointed to the board in November by the city-county council. We reached out to him twice over email, but he did not respond.
“I think four years is unacceptable and we have to do a better job of tracking that,” Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Leroy Robinson, District 1, said. “Again, put some kind of premise in place to where after so many months, so many days, if you don’t meet the required hours, or are working towards those hours, the end result is we remove you from the board.”
Records show current Board President Jennifer Norton met her required hours in 2019 and 2021, but did not in 2018 and 2020.
IMPD said board members were permitted to do ridealongs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, even when the general public could not.
“[Not meeting required training] is an issue we had particularly as we got into the COVID months and years,” Annee said. “So the council took a look at that and made the training hours more flexible with virtual and remote options.”
The board’s first quarter training log shows Norton has completed two hours of training so far in 2022. Member Evan Shearin has completed five hours of training, John Girton Jr. has completed two hours and Kenneth Sullivan and Sean Gorman did not log any hours as of the publishing of the first quarter training log. Kenneth Riggins said he has completed eight hours of training since beginning his term in March.
“We’ll set the standard when folks get on the board and the people that are on the board now,” Deputy Mayor Judith Thomas said. “What’s been wonderful is that Director [LeAnnette] Pierce has built-in training during the board meetings.”
We reached out to all current voting board members through their email addresses provided by the Citizens’ Police Complaint Office. Girton, Sullivan, Riggins and Norton responded.
Sullivan, a council appointee, just began his term in 2022.
“I get it,” Sullivan said. “It’s important for all of us to make sure that when we step into these roles, to whom much is given, much is required.”
Sullivan said the training requirements are tough for a volunteer board, but that he understands the rules.
“This new group of complaint board members wanting to meet their hours and wanting to demonstrate that they are committed to strengthening this board,” Sullivan said when asked what will be different with these new members.
The CPCB cannot discipline officers. The way the process works, according to city code, is after a person files a complaint, the director of the Citizens’ Police Complaint Office sends a copy of the complaint to the police chief.
Then, the officers involved or alleged to be involved receive a copy of the filed complaint. At that point, the CPCB tables its own investigation for 60 working days to give the department enough time to conduct its own investigation and the chief to take any appropriate action.
While the department’s internal affairs looks into the complaint, the CPCO’s independent investigator does their own investigation in collaboration with internal affairs. When the investigation is returned to the board, board members ultimately review it and make a decision on the complaint whether it’s sustained, not sustained, exonerated, or withdrawn.
“The past years there may have been some challenges, but now we’re moving on to making sure that we’re setting the right pace,” Thomas pledged.
Elected leaders say the board will improve. Robinson said the people involved in the appointing and training of board members will get together over the next several months and evaluate the current rules.
“If we don’t get to the point after six months, nine months to a year that you have the time to fulfill the requirements of the training hours, we will politely ask you to step down,” Robinson said.
The “power they actually have”
Josh Riddick is an organizer for Faith In Indiana’s Black Churches Coalition. Faith In Indiana is a local advocacy group focused on the areas of criminal justice reform, immigration, universal healthcare and more.
FOX59 asked Riddick for his perspective regarding the issues with the county’s Citizens’ Police Complaint Board.
“There’s still questions over this particular board, the power that it actually has institutionally,” Riddick said. “I think sometimes there are moves made from not just our police department, but police departments across the country to try and build trust that involves bringing civilians into space, bringing civilians into decision-making processes, but not giving them any institutional power to uphold that level of trust they want to see in the community.”
Riddick expressed concerns over the board members not following the rules detailed within the city code.
“So, instances like these could open the door for the state to take a deeper look which we don’t need,” Riddick said.
The community organizer said he does question whether city leaders should review the rules currently in place.
“I want to really interrogate, do the requirements meet the level of power that’s being given,” Riddick said. “Does the expectation of the civilian showing up, meet the power that they’re given? Sometimes that isn’t the case, sometimes it is. “
Elected officials said they are also contemplating a change in aspects of the CPCB, like the required training hours. Again, Pierce has built some training hours into the required meetings now.
“So when you have a captive audience, they are there,” Thomas explained. “We have people to train them on the specific things they need to be trained on because we also don’t want to waste their time. There’s no reason for them to go to training on being a police officer from a financial standpoint.”