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Indiana law enforcement reform bill earns widespread support

A bipartisan bill aimed at increasing police accountability and enacting criminal justice reform received early support from Indiana's legislators, law enforcement leaders and community groups Tuesday, following calls for action from the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus.

Posted: Jan 13, 2021 10:06 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A bipartisan bill aimed at increasing police accountability and enacting criminal justice reform received early support from Indiana's legislators, law enforcement leaders and community groups Tuesday, following calls for action from the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus.

House Bill 1006, which was unanimously approved by the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, includes provisions for mandatory de-escalation training, misdemeanor penalties for officers who turn off body cameras with intent to conceal, and bans on chokeholds in certain circumstances.

The bill would also establish a procedure for the law enforcement training board to decertify officers who commit misconduct, and would ease the sharing of officers’ employment records between police departments, thus helping to identify “bad actors” and keep them from moving jobs. The legislation now heads to the full House.

Bill author Republican Rep. Greg Steuerwald said the measure has “total support” from law enforcement. Police organizations, including the state Fraternal Order of Police, the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police and Indiana Sheriff’s Association, backed the legislation Tuesday, as did the Indiana Public Defender Council.

“It's a very rare circumstance that the Indiana State Police gets to stand up and say what I’m about to say ... but we rise in support of the bill,” said ISP Lt. Brad Hoffeditz. “This bill basically standardizes everything the State Police are already doing."

Hoffeditz specifically noted the record-sharing provision, saying departments often resist sharing information about officers and will only confirm that an individual had been employed there.

“It’s very difficult to make a decision that we need to make on an employment action when that’s the information we have at hand,” Hoffeditz said.

Tim Horty, who leads the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, said he favors classifying chokeholds as “deadly force.” The restriction technique should be likened to police officers using firearms, and the burden of proof “should be the same,” Horty said.

“We are 100% opposed to chokeholds," he said, adding that chokeholds do not appear in the academy's curricula.

The draft legislation is inspired by the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus' proposed package of police accountability and criminal justice reforms released over the summer, following protests against racial injustice and police brutality spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

In June, the caucus called on Gov. Eric Holcomb to address criminal justice reform with a list of “immediate action items” that included bans on chokeholds, racial profiling and no-knock warrants.

Those same issues are now key to their policy agenda during this Legislative session, said Democratic Rep. Robin Shackleford, chair of the caucus and who co-authored the House bill. She said it is “a great start.”

“I think it’s probably more than we expected to try to get passed in this bill, because it did have some controversial parts," Shackleford said. "I’m just glad everybody was able to get things worked out and we got as much in here as we could.”

While Shackleford said there is support for the bill from the NAACP, the Indianapolis Urban League, and Indiana Black Expo, she acknowledged that some wanted stricter language on chokeholds and more funding for body cameras.

Steuerwald said that 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 as part of the state budget, which House Republicans are expected to present next month.

___

Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Reported Deaths: 16370
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1349142114
Lake660941157
Allen57517796
Hamilton46157464
St. Joseph44155608
Elkhart35752508
Vanderburgh32119478
Tippecanoe27824258
Johnson24961444
Hendricks23767355
Porter22833364
Madison18662406
Clark18449252
Vigo17379302
Monroe15205198
LaPorte15077250
Delaware15006260
Howard14647288
Kosciusko12235147
Hancock11639175
Bartholomew11517179
Warrick11264189
Floyd11040214
Wayne10918252
Grant10000218
Morgan9427176
Boone8874116
Dubois8240131
Dearborn818193
Henry8154152
Noble7985106
Marshall7854134
Cass7510120
Lawrence7414170
Shelby7160117
Jackson694688
Gibson6534113
Harrison645891
Huntington635399
Knox6299106
DeKalb627699
Montgomery6214109
Miami590598
Putnam576278
Clinton571371
Whitley561555
Steuben557075
Wabash5289103
Jasper526677
Jefferson507596
Ripley496886
Adams476875
Daviess4632113
Scott436672
Greene422496
Wells421788
Clay420660
White416964
Decatur4139101
Fayette404987
Jennings385260
Posey375343
LaGrange354978
Washington354049
Randolph342599
Spencer337642
Fountain332658
Sullivan327452
Starke314069
Owen312770
Fulton307767
Orange292063
Jay282245
Perry264752
Franklin264542
Carroll259832
Rush259532
Vermillion256454
Parke230026
Pike228143
Tipton227059
Blackford191141
Pulaski182056
Crawford158823
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Benton150217
Brown145247
Martin137419
Switzerland134311
Warren120616
Union106916
Ohio84212
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