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Police reform bill unanimously endorsed by Senate committee

The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would mandate law enforcement officers to take de-escalation training and implement other reform measures.

House Bill 1006 passed by an 8-0 vote, reflecting its widespread bipartisan support. At the moment, the bill has nearly 90 co-authors including both Republicans and Democrats in the Indiana House and is adding co-sponsors as it makes its way through the Senate.

In an attempt to mend the relationship between law enforcement and the public, HB 1006, authored by Rep. Gregory Steuerwald (above), R-Avon, would establish mandatory de-escalation training for law enforcement in Indiana. The bill allows the Law Enforcement Training Board to take away the certification of police officers who commit misconduct, defines and prohibits the use of chokeholds, and implements the usage of body cameras.

House members and others who testified Tuesday agreed the bill will help to bring the public’s trust back after the events of 2020, including the deaths of George Floyd at the hand of Minneapolis police and Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville police.

Senators debated the use of body cameras to keep officers accountable for their actions and in which circumstances it would be considered a Class A misdemeanor if an officer turns off the camera.

Currently, police officers do not wear body cameras in Indiana. According to a statement from Gov. Eric Holcomb, it’s his priority for officers to begin using the cameras by spring 2021.

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Indianapolis Urban League, the Indiana Black Expo and the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network noted their support for the bill. Representatives of law enforcement organizations such as the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police and the Indiana State Police said it would improve the relationship with the public.

“This [bill] is an effective step towards bridging the gap between law enforcement and citizens. Policing practices must build community trust and foster collaboration in order to protect public safety. That trust grows when law enforcement focuses resources on preventing and solving serious crimes,” said Michael Chartier, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Indiana.

In order for an agency to hire a law enforcement officer, it will be required to request the officer’s personnel file. This file will include all cases of misconduct and other offenses and would be used by the agency in deciding whether or not to hire the individual.

“[This bill] ensures the continuation of those good practices in case anything changes down the road, or perhaps there’s an agency here or there that is not implementing de-escalation training—this would ensure that they do,” said Hazem Bata of the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network.

Carolina Puga Mendoza is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.