Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday announced plans to equip Indiana State Police troopers with body cameras by next spring and create a new cabinet-level position in his administration to focus on equity and inclusion.
The announcement comes more than two months after Holcomb said he believed the state needed to take action to address racial inequality and injustice. Holcomb said he has been talking to Black business owners, church leaders, college presidents and law enforcement officials since then to better understand what changes needed to be made.
He said he was told to think about the big picture and get at the root cause of inequity instead of only reacting to the symptoms.
“While we have made progress—and we have—we haven’t rooted it out fast enough,” Holcomb said. “Gaps persist and some are widening.”
The body cameras—which racial justice advocates have been pushing for—are expected to cost the state $5 million to purchase and $1 million annually for data management. The cameras are expected to be phased in and fully implemented by spring 2021.
Holcomb also said he’s ordering a third-party review of all training practices and curriculum at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, which provides the basic training for the majority of law enforcement officers across the state.
The new chief equity, inclusion and opportunity officer for the state will be responsible for identifying shortcomings in administration and finding ways to fix those gaps. This person will report directly to Holcomb and will also serve as an ambassador to minority communities so residents are more aware of the existing available resources from the state.
“In short, this cabinet member will help every state agency raise their game,” Holcomb said. “I’m confident this is the right first step.”
Holcomb has not yet filled the position, but said he has a shortlist of several external candidates.
Of the 18 current cabinet members, three are minorities.
The administration also plans to create a “public disparity data portal” to identify how the state is—or is not—interacting with minorities. It’s not exactly clear what that portal will include, but it could feature data on whether workforce grants are helping minorities, statistics from the Department of Corrections on incarcerations or information on pre-Kindergarten enrollment.
Holcomb described the public dashboard as being “critical” to moving the state forward.
“We’ll put our cards on the table, face up,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb also committed to continuing to work on issues of sentencing reform and jail overcrowding, but did not release specific actions he’s taking in those areas. And he plans to direct the new secretary of education, which will be appointed next year, to focus on recruiting more minority teachers.
Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers and Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne have also been told to submit specific recommendations on how to adjust workforce programs to create more opportunities for people of color.
“Black lives matter, and so do black livelihoods,” Holcomb said.
He said he expects some of the changes that need to be made will be difficult, but worth it.
“What I’ve laid out today are steps in a broad effort to make sure Indiana is a place where every Hoosier has an equal opportunity and access to achieve our founders’ vision of life, liberty and that pursuit of happiness,” Holcomb said.