Since the death of George Floyd, who was murdered by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day, protesters and activists have been making calls to “defund the police,” but there has been some confusion created by the slogan, and it seems to misrepresent what activists say they’re truly calling for.
The main focus for police reform activists is creating a wider range of first-responder and public safety programs, so that police aren’t always the ones responding to the many different types of calls received by emergency dispatchers every day. For instance, they believe it would be best for mental health professionals, or child protective services, or many other public agencies to respond to certain situations, instead of inserting armed police officers into potentially tense environments.
The police would still be needed at times, especially when violence is involved, but they would not be asked to handle situations they are not and can not be trained or equipped to handle. Activists believe by allowing more specially-trained professionals to respond to different kinds of situations, both violence and even deaths could be avoided, while still making sure people receive adequate care.
In order to expand the number of first-responder groups, the money used to fund police departments would hypothetically be dispersed across the different agencies responding to emergencies. Activists are also talking about cutting funds for police departments in order to demilitarize their forces, because many police departments currently own and use tools mostly associated with the United States military and acts of war against American citizens on American soil.
In response to these calls to action, Indianapolis Mayor, Joe Hogsett, says the city will be considering changes to policing and public safety after they receive new data and feedback on what is and is not working in Indy.
Mayor Hogsett held a press conference on Monday to discuss his plans for possible public safety reforms. He started off the conference by calling today “a defining moment in our nation’s history,” which he believes could “serve as the catalyst for a new, community-driven and community-monitored definition of justice and public safety…”
Hogsett used this press conference to also announced that the City of Indianapolis will be partnering with the NYU School of Law Criminal Justice Lab to help gather existing data on policing and public safety, and to also help them field feedback and recommendations.
For starters, Hogsett “announced an independent review in the police response to protests, separate from the IMPD review and the Marion County Prosecutor’s criminal investigation,” with hopes of providing a “transparent assessment of city policy and action” before any big changes are made to the system.
The plan being put in place by Hogsett would allow for several city agencies and even the public to make their voices heard, by explaining the greatest issues they see in policing and public safety, and by making recommendations on how they believe positive change can be achieved in the City.
While the starting point seems to be analyzing the city’s response to the recent protests, the main goal is to consider how race relations are played out in the city, especially when it comes to policing.
A member of the NYU Criminal Justice Lab, Professor Anne Milgram, joined Mayor Hogsett during Monday’s press conference, and helped put the main goal of these reforms into perspective.
A history of bias, racism and inequality in law enforcement has come to a critical junction that requires a swift response if we are to achieve justice and equity. We are witnessing this across the country, and we recognize the need for deep, systemic change to our police departments and public safety infrastructure… What we propose is a partnership that redefines policing, justice, and public safety in Indianapolis, and forms metrics to hold government accountable for eliminating institutional bias, racism, and inequality and for improving community safety.
The Mayor has broken down the process into the five following steps:
- The first step in the project will be a public-driven convening of community members, law enforcement, public defenders, health, education, social service, housing agencies, and others. This convening is necessary to create a new definition of justice and public safety that represents equitable and fair enforcement of the law.
- Once community stakeholders have defined justice and public safety for Indianapolis, the partnership will work with them to define the specific metrics to be collected and monitored. This will require several data analysts to be hired to work alongside the city agencies to ensure they have the capacity to collect and share the data required, which NYU will manage and fund. Metrics are critical as a means to hold law enforcement agencies accountable to the standard of equitable public safety defined by the community.
- The project requires, and the City is committed to, collecting and sharing relevant data.
- At various stages, the partnership will set forth and advocate for specific, consensus-driven policies before the City-County Council or other relevant agencies.
- Finally, the partnership will create a community-driven report card that is transparent and publicly accessible on the City’s website, ensuring members of the public have a mechanism to regularly hold city-county government accountable.
While Hogsett’s plan has received a lot of support since being announced, not everyone is on board with this approach.
Jessica Louise, who is a member of the Indy10 BLM group, told CBS 4 Indy,
I think the plan sounds like a plan. I’d be interested to see how the plan is going to work. We know that when the city commits to something that doesn’t always translate into equity for the intended neighborhoods… Who is going to be represented? We don’t always want to see the same three to four organizations at the table making broad sweeping statements for what the people of Indianapolis need. Theres is value in having the mixture of both. Of course, you need representation of organizations who are there because they have access to the resources that can kind of drive some of these things forward. We also need input from people who’s lived experiences contribute toward what’s going on.
Chris Wilburn, who formerly worked for the Indianapolis Metro police and retired after 15 years, told WISH-TV 8 that he also has some concerns with the mayor’s plan. He told the news station that “he fears now that words on paper may not be enough to implement real change.” He also said “[h]e believes the city should give people who live in Indianapolis a seat at the table. He also thinks there is an opportunity to use the current police budget to create new positions instead of new policies.”
Whether or not the Mayor’s plan will result in real, positive change is yet to be seen, but this is definitely a story that Hoosiers and Americans across the country will likely keep an eye on. Those of us here at Channel 27 News will also follow this story and bring you updates as they become available.
You can view Mayor Hogsett’s press conference from Monday in the video below (courtesy of Fox 59 News):