INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that would have shifted control of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to a five-member board dominated by gubernatorial appointees was amended Tuesday by a Senate committee to send the proposal to a legislative committee for study during the summer.
Senate Bill 168, under which the governor would have appointed four members of an oversight board with the mayor appointing a fifth, was amended at the suggestion of Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, chair of the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, which heard the bill Tuesday.
Representatives of Eli Lilly and Co. and the African American Coalition of Indianapolis testified in opposition to the bill.
“We primarily are interested in maintaining the level of civilian input into the police department. We believe that SB 168 significantly diminishes that. We’ve put a lot of work into working with the police department as an accountability partner,” said Marshawn Wolley on behalf of the African American Coalition.
In a meeting marked by interruptions by Young and hurried testimony from the public, the committee hearing took action on seven bills.
Young said he needed to speed up testimony to have a faster and more efficient meeting.
In an 8-1 vote after a heated debate, the committee approved Senate Bill 311, authored by Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, which defines the use of force from law enforcement officials, such as the prohibition of warning shots and allowing officers to use deadly force if they believe their own life is at risk.
“Any time a round leaves the muzzle of a firearm, everyone around us is in danger,” Baldwin said. “It should be a very last resort.”
Various groups testified for the bill, including the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network, the African American Coalition of Indianapolis, the United Way of Central Indiana, and the Office of Public Health and Safety within the Indianapolis mayor’s office.
The hearing saw a heated debate between Matt Griffin, interim director of the Office of Public Health and Safety within the Indianapolis mayor’s office, and Young when it came to defining the use of force by police officers under self-defense.
The debate continued as legislators attempted to define self-defense and its consequences and the use of warning shots and chokeholds.
Authored by Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, SB 110 passed with an 8-0 vote and would require the Law Enforcement Training Board to create a Law Enforcement Misconduct Database. The data would be available to the public to check up on disciplinary actions against law enforcement officers.
“It is a step in the right direction. I think too often we paint all officers with a broad brush, and if we dislike the activities of some, we call down the rest or paint the rest as bad officers,” said Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, who supported the bill. “And I think this is an effort by the entire community to eliminate those officers who don’t measure up.”