Editorial: Legislature passes a refreshing, bipartisan police reform bill

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

In this era of bitter partisan rancor, it is both astounding and encouraging that Republicans and Democrats in the Indiana General Assembly came together to unanimously pass legislation on the hot-button issue of police reform.

The Indiana Senate, which voted 49-0 this week, and the House, which voted 96-0 last month, are both to be commended for unifying behind legislation that would largely ban the use of chokeholds, penalize officers for intentionally turning off body and vehicle cameras, and make it easier for the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board to decertify bad-acting officers.

It was particularly heartening to see Black and white lawmakers in the Senate act in solidarity on these heated issues after unsettling racial tensions flared up in the Indiana House on an unrelated bill on Feb. 19. In that instance, a few Republican members booed Black Democrats who criticized a piece of GOP-authored legislation as racist.

It should be noted that the police-reform measure was a priority for the House Republican Caucus. And, thankfully, Senate Republicans and Democrats in both chambers were willing to jump on board, with many Democrats wanting more adjustments but still seeing the measure as an important first step toward improving police and community relations.

Hoosiers should be grateful for that coming together, because it resulted in a measure Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to sign into law and that provides more authority to toss bad-acting officers from the ranks.

As we noted last month in our initial endorsement of this legislation, enhancing these decertification powers for the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board is critically important.

Currently, the training board can only decertify an officer—meaning he or she can no longer serve on any police force in the state—who is convicted of at least two misdemeanors or one felony.

When this bill becomes law, the board will be able to decertify officers convicted of just one misdemeanor or simply if the officer has “engaged in conduct that would be a criminal offense,” even if the officer is never convicted.

The measure also goes a long way toward preventing bad police officers from moving from one agency to another to escape discipline or letting one department pass off its problem employees to another community.

It accomplishes this by requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain previous employment records about potential hires, including complete employment files, details related to disciplinary actions and information about internal investigations from any agency that has employed the individual. And the bill would require prior employers to share that information.

In its entirety, we believe this legislation provides the additional authority needed to help keep Hoosiers safe. And it shows how good laws can be crafted when lawmakers are willing to drop their partisan bickering, even if for just a fleeting moment.•


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One thought on “Editorial: Legislature passes a refreshing, bipartisan police reform bill

  1. This indeed is positive. Mutual respect and responsibility must be maintained by citizens and by police. Police provide a sound and necessary service to people and communities. Clearly noting required activities, actions and behaviors is a positive step.

    Yet, as in all aspects of life, some officers may misuse the position of trust they hold. This small group can effect significant negative impacts to communities and their colleagues. A mechanism must therefore be established to allow the so-called ‘bad apples’ to be identified and removed and whistleblowers should be able to do so with fear of retribution.