Police in Indiana would be barred from firing warning shots under legislation approved by a Senate committee Tuesday.
Sen. Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville) is a former police officer and author of the bill. He said warning shots by law enforcement should be a “very last resort.”
“Any time a round leaves the muzzle of a firearm, everyone around us is in danger,” Baldwin said.
But Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) doesn’t like the idea of such a statewide, blanket policy.
“You’re taking away their discretion," Taylor said. "And that is not good.”
Baldwin’s bill does allow prison guards to fire warning shots, only to prevent a prisoner escape.
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The measure also governs use-of-force policies established by local communities for their police. It says police can't be disciplined if they use whatever force they think is necessary when their lives are threatened.
Dave Powell, Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council executive director, said his organization supports that language.
"A law enforcement officer should have the same right of self-defense as a private citizen," Powell said.
But African American Coalition of Indianapolis's Marshawn Wolley said police use of force is a significant issue that communities are already trying to confront.
"These standards should not be diminished but be respected as part of police-community interactions," Wolley said.
Matt Giffin is the interim director of the Office of Public Health and Safety, within the Indianapolis mayor's office. He also opposed the bill, arguing it should not dictate to the city how to handle its officers.
The bill is headed to the full Senate.