Police call for judge input on pre-trial releases

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Fraternal Order of Police is trying to figure out how to stop people from committing a new crime while awaiting trial for one they already committed.

As president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86 in Indianapolis, IMPD Lt. Rick Snyder says he represents police officers who spend their days on the streets re-arresting the same offenders over and over again. Often, these arrests happen after they’ve committed a new crime while on probation or pre-trial home detention for a previous offense.

“As you know,” Snyder told lawmakers during a hearing before the Indiana Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, “our city was recently a subject of focus in our recent White House visit with the President of the United States in which our Fraternal Order of Police was able to highlight the local broken system of catch and release criminal justice in Indianapolis.”

Snyder came to the committee hearing with a stack of redacted reports on repeat offenders who committed more crimes while out on bond or probation. One case study missing from Snyder’s list was that of Dasiah Smith.

In November of 2018, while she was serving probation on home detention following a previous armed robbery conviction, Smith was arrested for several west side armed robberies committed not far from her house while she was wearing a GPS community correction monitoring device. At the time, Smith was 17-years-old.

On October 31st, 2019, Smith was given a nine-year prison sentence for the most recent armed robbery convictions, but a month earlier, she picked new charges of strangulation, battery and criminal confinement allegedly committed while she was awaiting disposition of the 2018 armed robbery case.

Snyder told the Senate committee that both the pre-trial assessment and community correction home detention monitoring systems are broken in Marion County.

“We are calling for the establishment of a commission on criminal justice outcomes to provide a public review of low bond structures and the catch and release criminal justice system specifically for those repeat convicted offenders,” he said. “Every arrestee intake throughout our city and quite frankly throughout the state should be reviewed by a judge much like we formerly had at the Adult Processing Center in Indianapolis which ran 24 hours a day. We know that we have a system that takes into account histories and renders a recommendation, that’s great, but it should be a human being judge that’s reviewing that and finalizing that decision.”

Snyder’s call for judicial common sense to be weighed alongside the current pre-trial risk assessment matrix that mandates judges’ decisions on bond was supported by Indiana State Senator Jack Sandlin, an Indianapolis republican and former IPD commander.

“We need to look at putting a judge back into the system and the process so that they can do that exploration,” said Sandlin.  “You’re really missing all of the other information that ought to be considered…and if we have a series of incidents where people are violating their bail conditions, I think that’s serious from the standpoint of impacting crime that’s going on in the community. Guys that are cutting off their pre-trial release bracelets so that they can go out and commit other crimes.”

Snyder also called for a statewide database to track violent crime participants in order to monitor both potential suspects and victims in future incidents.

“In just the past 59 days alone in our city, less than two months, Indianapolis has had at least 120 people shot, 45 people have been stabbed and 31 people have been killed. That’s 165 people, our fellow neighbors, that have been shot or stabbed in the last two months.”

Snyder said giving judges more leeway over granting pre-trial release could reduce those numbers.

"Those arrested in Marion County receive an automatic $500 bond for the following felony arrests, which I would suggest to you all involve violence: they’re felony battery, criminal confinement, criminal gang activity, criminal recklessness, escape, intimidation, pointing a firearm, residential entry, resisting law enforcement, stalking and strangulation. All of those, if you're arrested in Marion County, you get a $500 cash bond."

The Bail Project was launched in Indianapolis a year ago in order to facilitate the pre-trial releases of low-risk offenders in an attempt to stabilize their lives and assist in reducing jail overcrowding.

There was no testimony in opposition to Snyder’s call for additional judicial input into the bail setting process.

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