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Indiana Black Caucus Unveils Expansive Justice Reform Plan

By Brandon Smith, IPB News | Published on in Government, Law, Politics
Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Chair Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) said she wants to see more action from Gov. Eric Holcomb on justice reform. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)
Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Chair Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) said she wants to see more action from Gov. Eric Holcomb on justice reform. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus unveiled an expansive justice reform plan Thursday that reimagines policing across the state.

The caucus hopes to advance the agenda in the next legislative session.

It’s divided into five pillars: save lives, hold accountable, empower communities, change culture and improve transparency. There are more than three dozen proposed actions, including bans on chokeholds, racial profiling and no-knock warrants; automatic external investigations when police shoot unarmed or retreating civilians; and requiring public hearings before police union contracts are renewed.

READ MORE: What’s Driving This Moment In Indiana: Protest Organizers Discuss Demands For Change

Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) said the caucus also wants to expand law enforcement training on implicit bias, dispute resolution and de-escalation.

“Our goal is to make officer training more detailed, interactive and inclusive,” Pryor said.

IBLC Chair Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) said the agenda does not include “defunding” the police.

“We believe in reimagining the police. We believe in restructuring the police,” Shackleford said. “But we do not believe in totally getting rid of law enforcement. We see the need for law enforcement in our communities.”

Shackleford noted that part of the agenda – requiring use of body and dashboard cameras – would actually require more money for police departments. But the IBLC plan also proposes decriminalizing some non-violent crimes, removing police from schools, redirecting funding to treatment options, creating strike teams for non-violent events (rather than a police response) and restraints on the use of SWAT or paramilitary deployment.

Some of the agenda has been proposed in past legislative sessions and summarily ignored by Republican supermajorities. But Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said he thinks things have changed, in part because of the increased attention on racial injustice amid the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Taylor has spoken with Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) about the issue and said Bray is hearing about it from his constituents.

Taylor said that’s why he expects Republicans will join the IBLC and Democratic caucuses to support justice reform.

“And if they don’t, then we believe that the communities that we all represent – both Senator Bray and all of us – will express their concern in the voting box,” Taylor said.

Shackleford said she wants to see more action from Gov. Eric Holcomb on justice reform. Holcomb said at the beginning of June he would create a “to-do” list on the issue but hasn’t said anything since.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.