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Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Seeks Criminal Justice Reform

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, currently comprised of the 15 African-American members of the Indiana House and State Senate, called for far-reaching reforms to the state criminal justice system.

In the forthcoming 2021 Legislative Session, the IBLC will seek to pass laws that ban no-knock warrants and chokeholds, decriminalize marijuana, and remove police officers from schools and replace them with social workers. They are also preparing to propose legislation that broadens existing hate crime laws and requires police to live in the city where they work.

As reported in News and Tribune, State Representative Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) and chair of the IBLC emphasized that the Caucus is not calling for the abolition of the Indiana police system. Instead, the reforms’ purpose is to encourage Indiana citizens to rethink how Indiana police officers should conduct themselves. In particular, the Caucus seeks to create systemic change that will prevent and reduce abuse the police inflict upon the African-American community.

The IBLC’s agenda consists of 42 items with five different purposes: to save lives, change the culture of law enforcement, empower communities, improve transparency between communities and law enforcement, and hold law enforcement accountable for abusive behavior.

Concerning accountability, the IBLC seeks to establish automatic external investigations of the shooting of unarmed civilians and create a public database that lists citizen complaints against Indiana law enforcement officers and all officers who have been disciplined or terminated, among other things. They also hope to develop local policies that require more mental health testing of the officers.

In drafting this plan, the IBLC consulted with a wide range of Indiana groups, citizens, and public servants. These included Governor Eric Holcomb, police officers, prosecutors, families of police brutality victims, and 13,000 Indiana residents who flocked town hall meetings to discuss the subject.

Some of the issues on the IBLC agenda are not new. For example, the General Assembly passed a hate crimes bill in 2019, but many Caucus members do not believe that it does an adequate job of protecting certain groups, such as the LGBTQ community.

The IBLC also notes that they have met with Governor Holcomb on several occasions about several of these issues, including banning chokeholds in arrests, racial profiling, and no-knock warrants. But while the Governor has listened to these concerns and responded positively, he has yet to take any positive action.

IBLC members hope that given the loud outcry of some Indiana constituents after the several high-profile killings of unarmed African Americans by the police, this time will be different.

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