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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Work is necessary to restore public’s faith in police

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Seven seconds is all it took to, once again, chip away at public confidence in law enforcement.

Trust in our institutions, especially in our criminal justice system, is essential to the functioning of American democracy. And yet research has shown that trust in law enforcement is in decline.

Perhaps nowhere is such decline more apparent than on the face of Vicki Driver, a grandmother who stood by helplessly in the early hours of last Dec. 31 as three Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officers unloaded more than 30 rounds of ammunition at a parked car in her driveway in which of grandson had been sleeping.

Recently released body camera footage shows that it only took seven seconds between the time officers announced themselves by tapping on the car’s window where Anthony Maclin was sleeping to when they opened fire. The 24-year-old survived the shooting and continues to recover from three bullet wounds, but the officers’ actions perhaps dealt a fatal blow to Driver’s faith that police officers act in the public’s best interest.

It is even more unfortunate because Driver serves on the police department’s Critical Incident Review Board, whose goal is to bolster public confidence that officers perform in accordance with the local laws and within departmental policies and procedures.

It goes without saying that police officers have one of the most stressful and demanding jobs in public service. They know they could be putting their lives on the line with every traffic stop or dispatch call, and they must sometimes make split-second life-and-death decisions.

But it is also worth noting that police officers, especially in departments of the size of IMPD, are extensively trained on the use of deadly force. Despite the stress of any incident or the amount of adrenaline pumping through their veins, officers are trained on when and when not to use deadly force. They know it can’t be recalled once the bullet leaves the gun chamber.

We don’t know where the breakdown occurred in this incident. But we know that while an innocent life was spared, faith in the police was lost.

In this year’s mayoral elections, city residents will undoubtedly hear candidates promoting public safety as a top priority in the next administration. But that can become mere lip-service, pledges that most candidates make.

What we would like to hear are specific policies and procedures the next mayor plans to employ to restore public faith in law enforcement. This is necessary to restore and maintain the public’s confidence in leaders in our city and the police department.

To do less is a slap in the face of the city residents who must feel that, when the police arrive, they will act in the public’s best interest.

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