Indiana police reform bill sails through Senate committee


A bipartisan bill aimed at increasing police accountability and enacting criminal justice reform received unanimous approval from the Indiana Senate Corrections & Criminal Law Committee on Tuesday and will be reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee before it can be heard by the full Senate.

House Bill 1006, which was passed unanimously by the Indiana House last month, 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.

If adopted, the bill will also establish 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 the measure to help the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy implement the changes made necessary by the bill. A portion of those funds would be used to upgrade the nearly 50-year-old training facility.

“Everything begins with proper training, that’s the first thing we address. Another major topic we discussed is how to deal with the rogue officer … to be able to decertify officers, while also giving them full due process rights,” bill author Rep. Greg Steuerwald said Tuesday. “What we’ve done here, I think its of extreme significance.”

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,” Steuerwald said.

The Republican lawmaker added that the measure has since earned “true and total 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 draft legislation is also backed by the NAACP, the Indianapolis Urban League, Indiana Black Expo and members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus.

Democratic Rep. Robin Shackleford, chair of the caucus, said the bill aligns with pieces of the IBLC’s 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.

“We truly support the efforts of this legislation,” Shackleford said, noting caucus members’ collaborative work on the bill since last summer. “We know it is not the end-all, be-all. It is a great compromise, but at the same time, it is a great collaboration.”

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