Members of local minister groups want Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to be more transparent and strengthen its homicide unit.
Stephen Clay, president of the National Action Network of Indiana, said there are questions the city and IMPD need to consider: Would it be helpful to publish a homicide dashboard that includes whether charges have been brought for each case?
Should IMPD incentivize working in the homicide unit?
The current city budget includes $261 million for IMPD, which represents almost 30% of the city budget. More than half of the budget is reserved for public safety and criminal justice in general.
Clay, who is also senior pastor at Messiah Baptist Church, spoke after a presentation of recent crime trends, including a record 215 criminal homicides in 2020. Three-quarters of everyone killed in 2020 was Black, according to an Indianapolis Recorder review of IMPD data.
“Change often begins with a critical critique and a courageous conversation,” Clay said. “If the numbers we saw today does not warrant that, then what should the threshold be?”
Clay added the minister groups — which also included the Baptist Minister’s Alliance and Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis — are in the beginning stages of talking to IMPD about changes.
The ministers said their critiques are not about defunding the police. Instead, Clay said, it’s clear the city prioritizes IMPD and public safety in its budget, so the issue is figuring out how to put those dollars and resources to use to reduce the number of homicides.
David Greene, president of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, said the groups want to give the new civilian-majority General Orders Board time to make a difference. The board, created last year through the city-county council, is responsible for IMPD policy.
Greene also pointed to legislation at the Statehouse that could help reduce homicides and other crimes by addressing underlying issues such as food insecurity and housing.
“If we fail to do some of these core issues, it’s very unlikely we can say we’ll be able to cut the homicide rate,” he said.
The ministers spoke about transparency and resources at a virtual press conference Feb. 12, a few days before the IndyStar published a report from the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform that neither IMPD nor the city shared with the public.
The report includes critiques that IMPD’s crime analysis units weren’t sharing data and that the department doesn’t collect enough information on “gangs, cliques, or groups” that are most responsible for gun violence.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.