Bipartisan police reform bill heads to governor

By CASEY SMITH
The Associated Press/Report for America

INDIANAPOLIS — A bipartisan bill aimed at increasing police accountability and enacting criminal justice reform in Indiana is headed to the governor's desk after getting unanimous approval Tuesday from the state Senate.

House Bill 1006 includes provisions for mandatory de-escalation training and misdemeanor penalties for officers who turn off body cameras with intent to conceal, and it bans on chokeholds in certain circumstances.

The bill also establishes a procedure for the law enforcement training board to decertify officers who commit misconduct, and would ease the sharing of employment records between police departments, thus helping to stop “wandering officers” from moving jobs.

House lawmakers added $70 million to help the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy implement the changes. A portion of those funds would be used to upgrade the nearly 50-year-old training facility.

“There are many things that are in this bill that Indiana should be proud of ... that Hoosiers should be proud of,” said Republican Sen. Jack Sandlin of Indianapolis. “There are things that law enforcement agencies have been doing right for a long time, but this brings it across to all law enforcement agencies in Indiana, which is where it should be. And there should be accountability, and I think that’s what’s here.”

While there is broad support for providing body cameras to police departments across Indiana, that issue was withheld from this bill. Instead, body camera funding will be discussed in the state budget.

The impetus for the bill stems from conversations with law enforcement agencies around the state last spring over how to “enhance their ability to serve and protect the public,” said bill author Rep. Greg Steuerwald. The conversations came after protests against racial injustice and police brutality spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Steuerwald, a Republican, noted that the measure has since earned support from law enforcement, including the state Fraternal Order of Police, the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police and the Indiana Sheriff’s Association.

The legislation is also backed by the NAACP, the Indianapolis Urban League, Indiana Black Expo and members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus.

“I believe this is a historic piece of legislation in terms of its bi-partisanship, in terms of the nature of the issue we are addressing," Gary Democratic Sen. Eddie Melton said. "By no means do I think this is the answer to all issues, but I think it’s a good first step to address police-community relations.”




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