The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) provided an update on its justice reform agenda during a press conference. Hoosiers were “given a front-row seat to racism” in 2020 and the agenda reflects the sense of urgency felt in Indiana as well as around the country, said Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, who is chair of IBLC. Shackleford was joined by Indiana Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, for the press conference Jan. 27.
‘Changing the culture’
IBLC wants to “change the culture” of policing, specifically how suspects are apprehended, the use of deadly force and increasing transparency within police departments.
Citing the death of Breonna Taylor — who was killed by Louisville police who exercised a no-knock warrant — Shackleford said it’s important to ban the use of no-knock warrants, which she called a “symptom of a cruel justice system.” Senate Bill 269, authored by IBLC member Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, would only allow forced entry authorized by a warrant.
House Bill 1062, authored by IBLC member Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, would create criteria prohibiting officers from racial profiling, particularly when it comes to traffic stops. If passed, a legal definition of “racial profiling” would be created, and the bill would allow a person to bring a civil suit against an officer or police agency.
IBLC also called for mandatory de-escalation training and regular mental health screenings for Indiana police. Taylor said this, along with body and dashboard cameras, will increase transparency and public trust in the police. In a media roundtable earlier this year, Gov. Eric Holcomb said all state troopers will be equipped with body cameras by spring.
IBLC wants Indiana State Police to investigate when an officer uses deadly force. Further, House Bill 1165 would enforce charges for an officer who commits murder or battery that are more equivalent with what a “regular citizen” would face.
House Bill 1015, authored by Rep. Carolyn Jackson, D-Hammond, would create a public database with information on disciplinary action taken against police officers, including misconduct, suspensions and demotions. Taylor said he’s heard from law enforcement agencies that it’s difficult to find information on potential new recruits and hopes a database will help weed out bad actors from law enforcement.
A second chance
Two bills authored by IBLC members would directly relate to Indiana children. House Bill 1334 would offer resources such as mental health services, nutrition assistance and student support programs in Indiana schools. Shackleford said the more resources children have at their disposal, the less likely they are to end up in the criminal justice system.
House Bill 1580 would eliminate the requirement that a 17-year-old charged with a crime have their information automatically sent to adult court.
“Many Black and brown children are not given second chances,” Shackleford said. “They are put into the system at a young age, and it creates a pattern of institutionalization.”
IBLC hopes to incorporate younger Hoosiers into the legislative process through House Bill 1334, which would expand the Youth Advisory Council and allow them to discuss issues such as crime and juvenile justice. Shackleford hopes an expansion will help legislators better advocate for youth in the community.
A heavyweight in IBLC
While they’re aware some of these bills may be a long shot in a Republican-majority state Senate, members of the IBLC now have an advocate within the Senate.
Taylor was recently elected as leader of the Indiana Senate Democrats. His obligation, he said, is to push IBLC’s legislative agenda to help his constituents and other Hoosiers. Taylor plans to champion IBLC’s causes by putting people on committees and boards “so that the voices of the IBLC membership are heard. … We all know leadership comes with a lot of responsibility, not just to my caucus, but for the citizens of Indiana.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.