An Indianapolis state senator has filed legislation that would strip control of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department from the city’s mayor.
Senate Bill 168, authored by Republican Sen. Jack Sandlin, would create a five-member board that would oversee and govern the police department.
The board would be responsible for any ordinances governing the police department, oversee the budget, assume responsibility for the Indianapolis Police Merit Board and appoint the police chief.
Those are all duties currently delegated to Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, and the Democratic-controlled Indianapolis City-County Council.
Under Sandlin’s proposal, the governor would be responsible for appointing four of the five board members, and the fifth member would be the mayor in an ex-officio capacity.
Sandlin, who served on the Indianapolis City-County Council from 2010-2016 and as a police officer with IMPD from 1973-1993, said he filed the bill after hearing complaints from residents about crime and perceived lack of action from city officials.
“I’ve gotten calls from a lot of different corners of the city asking for some dramatic action,” Sandlin said. “We’ve seen a steady climb in violent crime, and we’ve seen really no plan to deal with rising crime.”
In 2020, the city saw a record-high 215 criminal homicides. The previous record was 159, set in 2018.
Sandlin said he has not talked to Hogsett or IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, but he has talked to other city officials and law enforcement officers.
“There is no positive morale in the police department,” Sandlin said. “We just don’t have a good interaction between police and the community.”
Sandlin said he thinks the board could be similar to the Health & Hospital Corp. of Marion County, which is governed by a seven-member board that is appointed by the mayor of Indianapolis, the county commissioners and the City-County Council.
He said he is still working through some details, such as the length of the board terms, and it’s possible that the person given authority to appoint board members will be changed as the bill moves through the legislative process.
Sandin said he has not talked to Gov. Eric Holcomb about the legislation yet, because it’s too early in the process.
Hogsett’s administration has not publicly taken a position on the proposal.
“There have been a number of bills proposed ahead of the 2021 state legislative session,” city spokesperson Mark Bode said in a statement. “While it’s still early in the process, we look forward to reviewing them and working with the General Assembly on important issues facing Marion County.”
IMPD also has not publicly shared a position on the bill.
“Over the last several years, the city has worked to increase accountability and civilian oversight of IMPD, including the creation of the civilian-led Use of Force Review Board and civilian-led General Orders Board,” IMPD said in a statement. “We plan to review the language of the Statehouse proposal and look forward to ongoing conversations over the next three months as we continue to build community trust and address violence in our neighborhoods.”