February 23, 2021

Indiana Senate Moves Bills Aimed At Law Enforcement Control

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana senators advanced measures Tuesday that would allow police to determine what use of force is reasonable in some cases and would allow the state's attorney general to appoint special prosecutors to handle criminal cases local authorities decide not to pursue.

Both bills are now headed to the House.

Sen. Mike Young, who sponsored the measure on prosecutors, said it ensures local authorities can’t create lists of crimes they won’t prosecute, pointing to such decisions made by prosecutors in Boston, Chicago and St. Louis to stop pressing charges in cases like trespassing, disorderly conduct or prostitution.

“Our job ... is to pass what we think are prudent laws that are fair and effective for the citizens of our state to keep them safe,” Young said. “The only people this bill applies to is a prosecuting who won’t follow the law themselves.”

The Republican state senator introduced a nearly identical bill last year after Democratic Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced that his office wouldn’t pursue charges against adults for possessing about 1 ounce or less of marijuana.

Young has maintained that the bill’s latest iteration “has nothing to do with” the Marion County prosecutor, however, and said it is aimed at any prosecutor in the state who adopts what he called a “social justice prosecution” policy not to pursue charges for certain crimes.

Another bill, authored by Republican Sen. Scott Baldwin, would ban local governments or merit boards from disciplining officers who lawfully defend themselves when they believe their own lives are at risk.

Under the measure, police officers would be allowed to determine “reasonable” uses of force in certain situations. That means officers could disregard their department's use of force policy and use techniques — including chokeholds, which are currently prohibited by Indianapolis police — that are not currently permitted. The bill also prohibits officers from firing warning shots.

“At the end of the day, officers have to act reasonably," Baldwin said. "Piling on more and more guidelines creates more stress and decreases reaction time and causes offers to second guess themselves in their actions, leading to danger for themselves and others.”

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