A report profiling the police and city response to the riots and protests in Indianapolis this past summer was released Friday. The findings focus on the last weekend in May when violence broke out following peaceful protests calling for social justice and police reform.
The three person independent panel reviewed events of the weekend of May 29 to June 1, when Indianapolis joined national calls for social justice after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. At the same time, local organizers protested the shooting of Dreasjon Reed, the man killed by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer on May 6 following a live streamed chase.
The panel, formed by Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett in June, had full access to IMPD, and interviewed police and city officials. They also talked to civilians and reviewed video footage.
It details how tensions rose the first night as the number of protesters grew and police response teams came out in riot gear. The firing of tear gas that night was blamed for inflaming the crowd which had not been violent to that point. The report says many people, including children, were affected by the gas.
The report also addresses rumors that outside groups were involved in violent action and said it did not find proof of that.
Video shows members of Indy Black Lives Matter trying to calm the crowd and diffuse the situation. There is also evidence that police used the unsuccessful tactic of blocking protestors, furthering the unrest. The video also shows police confiscating medical and other supplies.
The second night many more people came downtown. Again, the report says, the actions of police fueled the unrest and did not facilitate the First Amendment right to protest. Amidst the riots, two people were killed that night.
Findings show IMPD did not have an adequate incident response team and that plans and actions were mostly reactive. Poor communication was found between IMPD and other agencies -- including the Marion County Prosecutor's Office -- and between police and the public.
The report details how IMPD changed tactics by the third night to be less visible and allow protestors to move more freely.
IMPD Chief Randall Taylor issued a written statement and said the move to adapt made a difference.
“While violent unrest continued across several days in other cities, we adjusted our approach, and Indianapolis has since been host to more than 150 demonstrations without significant incident,” Taylor said. “We continue to take seriously our responsibility to protect the First Amendment rights of our community members.”
The report also says police responding that weekend did not likely escalate situations intentionally. The mistrust between IMPD and protesters that weekend is cited as a significant factor.
In a written statement following the release of the report Hogsett said IMPD has made “consequential” reforms, including a new Use of Force and General Orders Boards.
“However, our work will not stop,” Hogsett said. “IMPD will continue to adapt and improve its policies and practices to best serve the needs of Indianapolis, leading through transparency and community-led, community-engaged policing.”
The panel notes that moves made to review and update police policies are a step in the right direction, but other best practices to de-escalate events should be implemented.
The analysis offers recommendations that IMPD adopt policies and procedures to improve training and planning, avoid use of excessive force and improve community outreach.