The Indianapolis NAACP hosted a virtual conference with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Randal Taylor on June 2 to discuss police reform two years after the 2020 protests. Taylor discussed topics including police transparency, violent crime and Indiana’s permitless carry law that goes into effect July 1.
Taylor said he is working on police transparency through the Use of Force Board and the General Orders Board, which are both made up of majority civilians.
“The effort is to help the officers be the best trained they can be, but also put the community at ease at least as far as how our relationship works,” Taylor said.
READ MORE: What You Should Know About IMPD's Use of Force Review Board
READ MORE: What You Need To Know About IMPD's General Orders Board
As of June 2, Indianapolis has seen a 14.9% decrease in murders from the same time last year, according to Taylor, who said he would like to see that number decrease by 50% to 75%. That would take a combined effort from community members and police officers to assist in identifying why the numbers are down and how to keep them down, he said.
“The street officers do a great job of responding,” Taylor said, “but without the community’s help, it is not possible to impact those numbers where they need to be.”
Community help also means coming forward with information about crimes and going to court, Taylor said.
“I know that is a big ask, but in reality as a community, if we’re not going to do those things, if we’re not going to be involved then I think it’s hard for us to say we care about what’s going on,” Taylor said. “Don’t let the community suffer because you saw something and you don’t feel that it is your spot to get out and help fix it. At least, point us in the right direction.”
Violence is done in concentrated areas and by a small number of people, Deputy Chief Kendale Adams said. Arresting their way out of the problem isn’t the solution, he said, and counting on legislation is futile, so it’s imperative that IMPD partners with organizations and individuals who can help. There are various groups already assisting IMPD through different preventive and community advocacy efforts, but Taylor said the department needs more partnerships and people to volunteer.
Officers and mental health calls
Taylor also talked about officers responding to mental health crises. He said he agrees police are not equipped to respond to mental health crises, but “there is no one else stepping up to do it.” He encourages community organizations to respond to mental health calls.
Until the department finds those organizations, it relies on best practices, he said. 911 dispatchers are now learning different questions to ask on calls to make sure the right people respond.
IMPD also has a special unit called the Mobile Crisis Assistance Team. With the help of a clinician, officers respond to mental health crises, addiction problems and other similar calls. One limitation for MCAT is the unit isn’t on call 24/7. So, a clinician may not be available during a late-night call. Taylor said the goal is to eventually get 24-hour coverage from the team.
One of IMPD’s major needs is staffing. The department is budgeted for more than 1,800 officers but only has a little more than 1,600. Police work is difficult and not for everybody, Taylor said, but he would like to see more “good, high-quality” applicants. He said the department is looking at different incentives to fill the roles.
One problem the department faces when hiring is finding people who live in Marion County who want to serve Marion County, according to Taylor. He said sometimes people won’t apply because they want to live in neighboring cities such as Plainfield or Greenwood and drive their squad cars home. It’s something the department is looking into, Taylor said.
IMPD is also looking at tuition reimbursements and student debt relief. However, that would require approval from Mayor Joe Hogsett, Taylor said.
Addressing permitless carry law
Some people in the department, including Adams, have been vocal about concerns that the permitless carry law will make their jobs more challenging. The law makes it so Hoosiers who are eligible to purchase a gun will not have to apply for a license to carry. The community will no doubt feel the effects of it, too, Adams said. He said he’s not worried about criminals, but about 18-year-olds who will still be in school and have access to guns.
“I’m concerned on many levels,” Adams said. “I think we as a community should be concerned as we continue to see gun violence impact specifically Marion County.”
Response to Uvalde
The department reviews school shootings on a regular basis no matter where they occur, Taylor said. In response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where police officers waited for over an hour before entering the classroom, Taylor said IMPD has been trained differently.
“I don’t know what went wrong in Texas, but that is not how we were taught,” Taylor said. “We were taught to go in — if you’re it, you go in. You don’t sit around and wait for people.”
When school shooting training first began in Indianapolis, he said he remembers his colonel telling him and his colleagues that they are expected to put their lives on the line in an active shooter situation. Those sentiments echo throughout the department today, Taylor said.
“There’s no if’s, and’s or but’s to it. That is indeed the way IMPD is trained and that’s how I expect my officers and myself, for that matter, to respond,” Taylor said.
Contact Indianapolis Recorder staff writer Jayden Kennett at (317) 762-7847 or email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.