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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Sen. Sandlin’s ‘Back to the Future’ legislation

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In less than a week, Feb. 16 to be exact, the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law will hear debate regarding Senate Bill 168.

You’ve probably heard of SB 168 by now. It’s the bill proposed by Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, that would take away local control of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and place it under the authority of the governor and a five-member board. Originally, the board had very little local oversight, but in the spirit of compromise, Sandlin says he’s open to the city-county council appointing a member to the board. How generous.

When news first broke about this bill, it didn’t take much thought to determine the bill’s author was Republican, white and male.

Sandlin’s reasoning is something must be done about the crime, homicides and riots in the capital city.

“I’ve seen no plan come out of the municipal authorities,” he told WIBC in January. Really? Where are you looking? Just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The Recorder has published numerous articles about the city’s efforts to curb crime and homicides. I know we’re not the only media outlet that’s reported on these efforts. It’s disingenuous to say there are no plans.

Sandlin, a former IMPD officer, is concerned that Indianapolis will lose downtown and all the convention money that comes with it. So, Sandlin isn’t really concerned with the loss of life or the safety of Indianapolis residents, he’s concerned with money. I’m willing to bet that’s a concern for most local officials too. It comes with the territory of being a politician, but the policies they create and their words at least offer the illusion about caring for the city’s residents. Sandlin offers no such illusion.

Instead, Sandlin decided the best plan of attack is to remove local control and give all the power to a board of five people. Will those five people all be from Indianapolis? How will those five people be chosen? What qualifications must they possess? I find it ironic that someone from the party of local control wants to remove local control. Republicans are usually inclined to want the locals to have the authority to make decisions in their best interest. In this case, however, it’s a patronizing father knows best scenario. It’s also a power grab.

“Republicans are doing everything that they can to take control, little-by-little, away from Democrats in Marion County, and the police, IMPD, is another extension of that,” Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, said recently during an interview with Fox59.
What’s also interesting is Sandlin’s timing. He’s been in office since 2016, and the high number of homicides in the city isn’t new. There have been several record-breaking years since his tenure. What is new, however, is the protests against racial injustice that happened largely in Indianapolis. This would be the riots he referenced, and the protests occurred downtown, one area of the city he specifically mentioned and is his central focus. He’s said he doesn’t want a mayor and city-county council to be swayed by the politics of the moment and not focused on what’s best for the city’s residents. I’m sorry, isn’t governance in America supposed to be about what the people want? Is this bill something his constituents want? If so, isn’t he being swayed by the politics of the moment?

Hasn’t politics always been swayed by “the moment.” Right now, Black people — and non-Black people — want racial justice for Black people in Indianapolis. So, Sandlin wants to dismiss the cries of Indianapolis’ Black residents and non-Black residents, basically saying we don’t matter during a time when we’re unequivocally stating we do. Talk about not reading the room.

Reading between the lines, Sandlin doesn’t want protests to get in the way of convention money, he doesn’t want to hear Black Lives Matter, and he doesn’t want a possibly sympathetic mayor and city-county council (whose president is Black, by the way) to allow protesters to “take over” downtown. He wants things to return to normal when everyone just pretended everything is OK and controversial legislation slipped by without controversy. That’s so 2019.

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