Indiana Senate moves bills aimed at law enforcement control

Keywords Law / State Government

Indiana senators advanced measures Tuesday that would allow police to determine what use of force is reasonable in some cases and would allow the state’s attorney general to appoint special prosecutors to handle criminal cases local authorities decide not to pursue.

Both bills are headed to the House.

Sen. Mike Young, who sponsored the measure on prosecutors, said it ensures local authorities can’t create lists of crimes they won’t prosecute, pointing to such decisions made by prosecutors in Boston, Chicago and St. Louis to stop pressing charges in cases like trespassing, disorderly conduct or prostitution.

“Our job … is to pass what we think are prudent laws that are fair and effective for the citizens of our state to keep them safe,” Young said. “The only people this bill applies to is a prosecuting who won’t follow the law themselves.”

The Republican state senator introduced a nearly identical bill last year after Democratic Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced that his office wouldn’t pursue charges against adults for possessing about 1 ounce or less of marijuana.

Young has maintained that the bill’s latest iteration “has nothing to do with” the Marion County prosecutor, however, and said it is aimed at any prosecutor in the state who adopts what he called a “social justice prosecution” policy not to pursue charges for certain crimes.

Another bill, authored by Republican Sen. Scott Baldwin, would ban local governments or merit boards from disciplining officers who lawfully defend themselves when they believe their own lives are at risk.

Under the measure, police officers would be allowed to determine “reasonable” uses of force in certain situations. That means officers could disregard their department’s use of force policy and use techniques — including chokeholds, which are currently prohibited by Indianapolis polic —that are not currently permitted. The bill also prohibits officers from firing warning shots.

“At the end of the day, officers have to act reasonably,” Baldwin said. “Piling on more and more guidelines creates more stress and decreases reaction time and causes offers to second guess themselves in their actions, leading to danger for themselves and others.”

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8 thoughts on “Indiana Senate moves bills aimed at law enforcement control

  1. Officers can disregard the use of force policy as they see fit? What’s next, firefighters can attack a fire however they want? Sovereign citizens get to decide what laws to follow?

    Police union is out of control this session. Little wonder the relationship between citizens and law enforcement is at a low ebb.

    1. Relationships between citizens and law enforcement is great in 90% of the county.

      The lack of electability of GOPers in Indy and most urban centers–something you and I can agree upon–has just as much to do with GOPers being “out of touch” (which they are) as it does with the new-wave Dems being utterly possessed by ideology, to the point that people in the Midwest think that SF and Portland (let alone Chicago) are urban models to emulate…even as the riots continue and needles fill the sidewalks. Not all of urban America’s dysfunction can be blamed on the political party that has abandoned the cities–and while the GOP certainly did abandon them, this means that the prevailing issues facing the cities are that much more the responsibility of the political party that has near absolute control.

      The GOP may not acknowledge the faults of ill-behaved officers as much as they should, but they have been willing to concede on bodycams and no-knock warrants and even certain types of chokeholds, using as evidence the most extreme cases where brutality is obvious (which constitute much less than 1% of all police-civilian interactions). At the same time, when will the Dems acknowledge that fostering a culture that micromanages officers, that supports riots, that holds LEOs responsible when dealing with “mental health issues” (when the “issues” at hand are stupefying levels of fentanyl, PCP, or bath salts among the criminals), or that makes it harder for them to maneuver when a civilian is unquestionably violent…that this culture in turn is at least partly responsible for why homicide rates are back to levels during the height of the crack epidemic. Will the Dems ever acknowledge their own short sightedness? I’m not holding my breath.

    2. We are in Indiana, not Portland Oregon. The appropriate reaction to civilians having a say in department policies is not this law.

      It is a gross overreaction to exempt officers from following department policies on the appropriate level of force to use in encounters … that are being determined by a board with four civilians and three police members.

      If the police officers on that board can’t convince one single civilian on that board of the need for what they want, is what they want truly a good idea?

    3. A reminder, the previous board that determined the use of force policy had no members of the public. NONE. This law is all about negating citizen input.

    4. JoeB, we live in the United State of America, not Iran or North Korea (where you seem you may feel more comfortable). The police are public employees and they work for the people, not the other way around. It is entirely appropriate for civilians to oversee and set police policy. This weird mindset that citizens are subservient to government employees is incompatible with a democratic society.

      Police officers should only use the appropriate force necessary at the appropriate time, and they should have a mandate to always use the minimal force need to safely address a situation. Certain maneuvers such as chokeholds should be limited to clear life and death situations where deadly force is warranted, as even when properly administered there is a high risk of injury or death. Choking someone merely to “keep them in line,” is never an appropriate use of force. Officers are trained in non-physical deescalation techniques, which they should always use first before escalating up to force, except in the most urgent situations where deadly force is the only option.

    5. JoeB, mea culpa, I read your comment too quickly, and I thought you were criticizing the Indianapolis ordinance establishing the police civilian oversight board. I am too used to people posting crazy comments on IBJ defending whatever partisan power grab the state GOP makes against Marion County because they believe a large urban Democratic county needs to be brought to heel.

      I was also a bit thrown by your reference to Portland, OR. That city may have a higher percentage of individuals with an anti-authority mentality, but there is certainly a long history of tension between various communities in Marion County and IMPD. In either case, I believe local residents should have a say in how their police force is operated, and having a civilian oversight body ultimately leads to better relations between the police and the members of the community they serve.

      In any event, I understand your objection is to the proposed state legislation advanced by the Indiana Senate, and yes, our views on that issue are in alignment.

  2. I believe the first special prosecutor that “Part Time” Todd Rokita should appoint is one to investigate Todd’s obvious conflict of interest in keeping a private sector job while working as AG.

    Second prosecutor appointed should be to investigate Senator Aaron Freeman ethics violation when he declared, “The Indiana Attorney General declares what the law is in Indiana, and that’s the opinion I’m going with”, during his efforts to kill expanded public transit in Indy. The AG does NOT declare what the law is in Indiana and Aaron, a law school graduate, knows this.

    BTW Aaron is not only trying to kill public transit in Indy he has now put Indy in jeopardy of losing $400M in federal dollars for massive road, sewer, street lights, traffic signals and sidewalks. Way to go Aaron – BRILLIANT