Wednesday night, the City-County Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee approved allocating funding to the police department for new technology to better track crime and hold officers accountable. The move received criticism from the public.
The committee’s discussion was part of a proposal introduced earlier this week, which would allocate more than $3 million in funding to various parts of the criminal justice system, including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety. Committee members unanimously passed the proposal, which will be sent back to the full City-County Council for final approval at its meeting on July 12.
“This is a good day and I fully support this,” said Councillor Jared Evans (D-District 22) at the meeting.
The proposal was met with pushback from members of the public, who in-person and via online comments, asked the committee to not approve funding for the police department. About 10 community members spoke in person and 17 pages of online comments were read. Most of the online public comments were similar, ending with the statement, “Indy needs care, not cops.”
The funding would support new technology to track where crime is happening in the city, creating more reliable data that will show patterns and trends. The current technology is said to be outdated, and doesn’t automatically cross reference an incident with other crimes that occur.
The tool could help officers avoid profiling an entire neighborhood and instead focus on the exact area where crimes are occuring.
Another form of new technology would allow the police department to better track officer behavior. For example, if an officer uses their taser many times in a short period of time or repeatedly interacts with an individual unnecessarily, their conduct will be flagged and reviewed.
The funding would also support the hiring of a chief data officer, who would oversee the newly collected data.
“It is abundantly clear that we have a violence problem in our city … and therefore we must confront our localized issues with local solutions,” IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said during the meeting.
The proposal would allocate funding to the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety as well. The office’s director Lauren Rodriguez said at the meeting the money would go toward addressing mental health, domestic violence and juvenile justice. It would also support staffing at the recently opened Assessment and Intervention Center, which helps offenders who are facing obstacles like mental health and homlessness.
Some Republican members of the committee voiced concerns about the proposal. Councillor Paul Annee (R-District 23) said that he wished he and members of his caucus had been briefed about the efforts earlier and had the opportunity to collaborate
“I don’t know how we’re going to move forward in our city if we’re not bringing all of the people to the table, I find that very disappointing,” Annee said.