Police reform bill heads to governor’s desk after 49-0 Senate vote

A significant law enforcement reform bill is headed to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature.

The Indiana Senate on Tuesday voted 49-0 to approve House Bill 1006, which 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.

The House approved the bill 96-0 last month.

The bill, authored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, has widespread support from police and minority groups. It was one of the top priorities for the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus and House Republicans. Democratic Rep. Robin Shackleford, who chairs the IBLC, co-authored the bill.

The bill would expand the conditions for decertification by making it possible when an officer is convicted of just one misdemeanor (current law requires it to be two or more or for it to be a felony conviction) and add language that would allow for decertification if the officer has simply “engaged in conduct that would be a criminal offense,” even if he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

The legislation would allow the decertification process to continue even if the officer has resigned or retired from his or her position.

The bill defines “chokehold” as “applying pressure to the throat or neck of another person in a manner intended to obstruct the airway of another person,” and considers it to be a deadly force.

“This doesn’t say you can’t use it, but it limits it to certain situations when you can use it,” Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, said.

Young is the Senate sponsor of the bill.

The bill also addresses penalties for turning off cameras—it would make it a Class A misdemeanor if an officer turns off a body or vehicle camera with the intent to commit or conceal a criminal act.

The bill would also require law enforcement agencies to obtain previous employment information about potential new hires. This would include complete employment files, details related to disciplinary actions and information on internal investigations from any agency that has employed the individual applying for a job. And the prior employers would be required to share that information, under the legislation.

The measure also includes $70 million for upgrades to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield.

Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said he thinks the bill is historic, even though it doesn’t mean all of the issues surrounding law enforcement have been resolved.

“I think this is a very good first step to address police and community relations,” Melton said.

Holcomb is expected to sign the bill.

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