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Indiana Black Legislative Caucus unveils justice reform agenda

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In the upcoming legislative session, the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) plans to focus on saving lives, holding police departments accountable and improving transparency in police departments throughout the state. 

Members of the IBLC gathered outside the statehouse Aug. 13 to unveil their justice reform policy agenda during a press conference, led by Rep. Robin Shackleford.

“We’re trying to keep the movement going,” Shackleford said. “We want to galvanize the voices of the streets into legislation.”

Joined by Reps. Earl Harris, Cherrish Pryor and Sen. Greg Taylor, Shackleford discussed the push to get Indiana police equipped with body and dashboard cameras, a ban on racial profiling, and to remove police officers out of Indiana schools. 

“Students need care,” Shackleford said, “not conviction.”

The group also wants to see marijuana decriminalized, with Shackleford describing marijuana convictions as an example of how Indiana has “failed our youth.” Shackleford also called for racism to be studied as a public health crisis in the state of Indiana. In June, city-county council President Vop Osili sponsored Proposal 182, which declared racism a public health crisis in Marion County.

Harris, who spoke on the transparency section of the policy agenda, said IBLC has been working with various groups throughout the state – including police departments and youth activism groups – to advocate for changes in police culture that can lead to racial profiling and police brutality. 

Such changes, including creating a whistleblower complaint process to make it easier for officers to come forward with complaints against other officers, as well as a statewide tracking of officers who have complaints or disciplinary action, will help hold police departments accountable and help foster a better relationship between them and the communities they serve, Harris said. 

The group said Gov. Eric Holcomb has been “polite” and they’ve spoken with him several times, but Shackleford said she would like to “see more action from Gov. Holcomb, and immediate action.”

One issue where IBLC differs from many Indianapolis activism groups, including Indy10 Black Lives Matter and the Indiana Racial Justice Alliance, however, is defunding the police. 

Shackleford said IBLC has worked with groups and individuals, including families of victims of police-action shootings, to form the agenda. IBLC, she said, does not support defunding the police, but supports “reimagining and restructuring the police.” 

The group must have policy proposals together by December, and members will be working the next few months to figure out the best course of action for the group to take. 

“This is a start,” Pryor said. “This will make Indiana safer and more accommodating.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus announces its justice reform policy Aug. 13 at the Statehouse. (Photo/Breanna Cooper)

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