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‘I think we’re moving in the right direction’: IMPD chief hopeful (and realistic) about gaining trust

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Randal Taylor met plenty of unexpected obstacles during his first year as chief of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. A pandemic, months of protests, two nights of riots, the death of a police officer — and that was all before summer turned to fall last year.

But no matter what happened in 2020 and the first two months of 2021, Taylor, who took over in January 2020, was always going to have to deal with the problem urban police departments haven’t figured out yet: how to get people to trust the police.
Taylor doesn’t shy away from that, but he’s quick with answers.

IMPD has a new Community Engagement and Outreach Bureau, which includes programs such as the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) camp and coordinates the Indy Police Athletics and Activities League. The bureau also includes IMPD Cares, a youth mentoring program.

Plus, the department is almost done issuing body cameras, and training is in progress for two new civilian-majority boards that will shape IMPD policy and review officers’ use of force.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Taylor said in an interview with the Recorder. “Obviously, I don’t know that I’ll ever be satisfied, but I think as these things start happening and we spot check the community, I think we’ll find that more of them are satisfied with the things we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

IMPD and city officials also point to beat policing as a path to trust because, theoretically, it allows officers to spend more time outside of their car getting to know people in the area they’re responsible for.

The department is currently at 107 beats, Taylor said, and there isn’t a specific goal.
IMPD will have to figure out what it means for the community engagement efforts and the beats and everything else to actually work. For everything police say about transparency and making inroads with the community, it remains true that some people — not an insignificant amount — seem poised to simply never trust police.

The idea that a police officer wants to get out of his or her squad car and strike up a normal conversation makes some uncomfortable. Taylor said he believes most people want to build a relationship with officers in their area, but he knows he can’t win everyone.

“There’s always gonna be that group that doesn’t believe you for whatever reason,” he said.

The Recorder spoke to Taylor about a wide range of topics Feb. 25 at his office. Below are other highlights from the interview.

Read a transcript of the interview here.

New civilian-majority boards

Two new civilian-majority boards, the General Orders Board and Use of Force Review Board, could start this month, Taylor said. Civilians have to go through training first.
The General Orders Board sets department policy, and the Use of Force Review Board reviews if officers’ use of force was within department policy and training.
Taylor said he was “all for” civilian participation but expressed more hesitancy in welcoming civilian majorities.

“They haven’t started, so I don’t know how that one ends,” he said. “The only thing I’ve said is I’m committed to trying to make that work the best it can. And I think it can. Ultimately, I think we’ll be fine with it.”

Sharing more about Dreasjon Reed

Taylor said in a recent interview with Indy Monthly he wishes he would have shared more information about what happened to Dreasjon Reed, who was shot and killed by an Indianapolis police officer in May 2020, soon after the shooting. Without information, Taylor said, people are left to fill in the blanks however they choose.

Asked to elaborate, Taylor told the Recorder someone asked him to “limit my conversations” about what happened. Taylor did not say who asked him to do that, other than saying it was “someone that I have to work with.”

Taylor added: “That’s one of those things that moving forward from that, I’ve told that person, ‘Look, I’ve got a community to consider, and they need to know some things. I understand you’ve got your concerns, but I’ve got my concerns as well.’ I think that was a learning experience. I feel better for it.”

Asking for patience

The community lobbed plenty of demands to Taylor and IMPD last summer, and the department has met some, such as being quicker to name officers involved in shootings.

Taylor said he knows getting more patience is probably a “pipe dream,” but he wants people to understand that he isn’t IMPD’s or the city’s dictator.

“I have bosses,” he said. “I have things that I have to abide by legally. There’s certain aspects of that that I’m probably not gonna be able to react as quickly as you want. In those places that I can, I will.”

Hoping people realize officers ‘really do care about them’

“I’m hoping people realize that they really do have a good police department,” Taylor said, “that the men and women of this police department really do care about them and really strive to do things.”

He mentioned the recent mass murder on Adams Street, when officers responded quickly enough to apply a tourniquet to the lone survivor, a child, likely saving his life.
Taylor said he’s also seen officers get in a shootout with someone and then immediately give medical attention to the person once the shooting stops.

“I don’t know that people realize that someone basically just tried to take your life, but now you’ve flipped into ‘I’ve got to save that person’s life,’” he said. “I think that’s incredible.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-766-1406. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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