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Explained: The boards that shape and oversee IMPD

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It can be confusing trying to keep track of all the boards and committees that have a hand in shaping Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and attempting to hold it accountable to the community.

As part of the Recorder’s continued look at policing in Indianapolis, we are taking a look at some of those boards. What are their responsibilities? Who are the members? When do they meet?

There are dozens of boards, most of which are internal at IMPD, so we have included the ones with the most public-facing tasks.

Use of Force Review Board (proposed)

• Members — Unclear

Mayor Joe Hogsett and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Randal Taylor announced a new Use of Force Review Board in May after police shot and killed two Black men — Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose — within hours of each other.

The board will review every officer’s use of force and determine if the officer was in compliance with department training and policy. Members would then give a recommendation to the chief. The review process is different and separate from any criminal investigations.

The board is now in the final stages of internal review and approval, according to Aliya Wishner, an IMPD spokesperson, but there’s still a debate about if the board will have adequate civilian participation.

The board will include a mix of police officers and civilians, but Wishner declined to say exactly how many of each because it is still being discussed and amended.

“What I can say definitively is that IMPD has committed to majority civilian representation on the board,” Wishner said in an email.

When Hogsett and Taylor announced the board, there were three civilians, with nominations from the mayor’s office, rank-and-file police and the city-county council president. Taylor would get final say on appointments.

Taylor later said he would add another civilian seat but that it would be automatically filled by the director of the Citizens Police Complaint Office, which is a city agency.

In May, IndyStar reported the board would include nine members, including five officers and four civilians, but Wishner said that isn’t what’s in the current proposal.

Once established, the Use of Force Review Board will take over the responsibilities of the internal Firearms Review Board, which is tasked with deciding if an officer’s actions were within or outside of department policy but doesn’t have the authority to recommend discipline.

General Orders Committee

• Members — Three people (two appointed by the chief, one appointed by the Fraternal Order of Police)

The internal General Orders Committee has final say when it comes to department policy. For example, the committee had to sign off on an updated use-of-force policy announced in July.

Critics say three people is too few to have such a large task without civilian participation.

City-county councilors Keith Potts and Crista Carlino, both Democrats, announced their intention to create a General Orders Board that would replace the current committee. Their board would include civilians.

“It is time to put the voice of the public back in public safety,” Carlino said at a press conference in July.

The councilors recently announced they will host town halls to get community feedback on what the makeup of a new board should be. In an interview for this article, Potts said there will be two town halls with more details about those coming soon, and that at least one will be accessible through Zoom.

The General Orders Committee exists through the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, but Potts said state law allows the city-county council to create a new board and assign it tasks, effectively replacing the committee’s functions.

The plan is to introduce the proposal at the next full council meeting Sept. 14. From there it will go to committee and then back to the council for a full vote, which Potts said he hopes happens in October.

Civilian Police Merit Board

• Members — Seven people (four appointed by the mayor, one appointed by the city-county council, two elected by active members of the department)

• Meetings — 12:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month as often as monthly 

• Contact — Call the chief’s office at 317-327-3282 and ask for the merit board

The Civilian Police Merit Board spends most of its time considering hiring and promotion recommendations from the chief, but its most visible task is deciding whether to uphold or deny punishment for officers.

When the chief wants to punish an officer — such as when former Chief Bryan Roach wanted to fire two officers involved in the fatal police shooting of Aaron Bailey in 2017 — the officer can appeal. That’s when the Civilian Police Merit Board conducts hearings and chooses to agree with the chief, reverse the chief’s recommendation or reduce the punishment.

The board is not allowed to punish officers on its own.

Joseph Slash, the longest-tenured member of the board, emphasized that the board currently has four African Americans.

The board ends up agreeing with the chief most of the time, Slash said, because a vast majority of the board’s responsibilities are more mundane than determining whether to punish officers who kill people. (Slash was one of two members to vote to fire the officers who killed 45-year-old Bailey.)

Slash also touted the screening process the board uses for potential new hires, which was updated about 12 years ago under former Mayor Greg Ballard. The process includes checking for affiliations with fringe groups such as white nationalist organizations.

Fewer than a dozen candidates have been screened out because of their affiliation with a white nationalist group since then, Slash said, adding that one of the most common reasons potential hires don’t make it is because of drug use in the last year, which either comes from a candidate’s admission or from a lie detector test. 

Citizens’ Police Complaint Board

• Members — 12 people (six appointed by the city-county council, three appointed by the mayor, three non-voting members who are officers)

• Meetings — 6 p.m. on the second Monday of the month (at least quarterly but as often as monthly)

• Contact — 317-327-4380 or cpco@indy.gov

The Citizens’ Police Complaint Board reviews all formal complaints made to the Citizens’ Police Complaint Office. The board was established about 30 years ago as part of an effort to promote trust and accountability between the community and police department.

The board sends complaints to IMPD Internal Affairs, which has 60 working days to do its own investigation and allow the chief to take any action. The board can vote to conduct its own investigation at the same time.

When the department gives the investigation back to the board, it can agree with the findings and any action the chief takes. If the board doesn’t agree, it can vote to: do an informal administrative hearing on the complaint, order the office’s director to do informal mediation to resolve the complaint or conduct its own investigation.

The board recently updated policies to allow people up to 120 days to file a complaint (it had been 60 days) and to give people two minutes to talk (they had no time before). 

Disciplinary Board of Captains

The internal Disciplinary Board of Captains, among other tasks, either approves or disapproves of recommended discipline levels when the department’s General Orders are updated.

Vehicle Operations Review Board

The internal Vehicle Operations Review Board reviews police vehicle crashes, damage to police vehicles and other incidents. Its most relevant public responsibility is to determine if police pursuits were within compliance.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

City-county councilor Keith Potts speaks at a press conference July 15 about his effort, along with councilor Crista Carlino, to create a new General Orders Board for IMPD that would include civilians and replace the current General Orders Committee, which has final say on department policy. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

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