Holcomb orders body cameras for state police, to hire diversity cabinet job


In a 30-minute speech Tuesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb said “black lives matter” and pledged to tackle systemic racism within state government structures.

Specifically, the Republican said he would hire a cabinet-level equality director to review each state agency and order reforms to the Indiana State Police, including recourse training. to the strength and requirement of body cameras by spring 2021.

With the current equipment of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officers along with body cameras, that means the state’s two largest police forces will be carrying body cameras by spring.

“For my part,” said Holcomb, “I am committed to you in working to break down barriers. I am committed to bringing more equity and opportunity to your state’s government and to the services you do. Trust us, so that every Hoosier can make the most of their gifts and potential. “

A call for justice: Black Caucus members recommend statewide reforms

Holcomb will face Dr. Woody Myers in the November 3 election. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate felt the address, offered to local media for television and live broadcast as governor of Holcomb rather than a paid campaign advertisement, bled into a campaign speech while not adequately addressing the issues people of color face.

“Here we are 77 days before an election when he runs against an opponent who is an African American business leader, and now we have a set of initiatives that deal with disgruntled communities,” Myers said. “Between Governors Daniels, Pence, and now Governor Holcomb, the Republican leaders of this state have had almost 16 years to put forward significant initiatives with respect to maternal mortality, environmental policy and so on.”

George Floyd’s murder inspired Holcomb to take action

Holcomb said the changes are a reaction to the racial equality protests that have rocked the nation, including Indianapolis, since George Floyd was killed in a suffocation in May by Minneapolis police. He said racism is just as deadly a virus as Covid-19 and that everyone has a responsibility to fight it.

He pointed out that although the country was founded on the principles of freedom, for many people, including African Americans, it was not. He said that first slavery, then Jim Crow laws held back African Americans, and now many of our current systems are systematically biased against people of color.

“I cannot put myself in a black person’s shoes,” said Holcomb, “I cannot fully appreciate the daily indignities and slights our friends and associates have had to face, let alone the fear of some things I’ve never had So I’ve spent a considerable amount of time since Mr. Floyd died connecting and listening to black leaders and stakeholders, one conversation leading to the next, and the next and the next. next. “

The result, he said, is in part a cabinet-level director, called the head of equity, inclusion and opportunity, who will report directly to the governor. The director will work with state agencies to identify and make changes to improve equality and remove barriers.

A search will begin immediately with interviews with candidates this month.

Here are other reforms Holcomb said he would undertake:

  • Holcomb said every state police officer who works on the front lines will need to carry a body camera, potentially around 700.
  • The governor has ordered a third-party state police review to create a use of force training program that will include, among other topics, a review of the use of choke holds.
  • He said he would work with state lawmakers to add civilians to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, which is the police training academy for most officers from states, counties, cities and from the villages of Indiana.
  • He said he would work with lawmakers, police, courts and prosecutors on sentencing reform and prison overcrowding.
  • Holcomb will create a database on the state website to track statistics related to diversity in various state agencies. In addition to improving transparency, he said it would show state agencies where they have loopholes.
  • He also asked for recommendations on how to adjust the policies of the workforce programs to create opportunities for people of color.

The black caucus responds

State Representative Earl Harris Jr., D-East Chicago, vice-chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, noted that the caucus recommended some of the governor’s suggestions, including the use of body cameras and the training.

Harris, however, pointed out that the caucus also called for more initiatives, including bans on the use of no strike warrants and strangling holds, removing police officers from schools, decriminalizing marijuana. and to demand that the police live in the city in which they work.

“I would say we would have liked to hear a little more frankness and a little more detail on what he’s thinking,” Harris said. “Partly words are easy, but actions really mean something. ”

Harris said he asked the governor’s office to participate in the interviews and the hiring of the chief of staff.

“We would love to be involved,” said Harris. “Creating the job is good and having the person in the firm is good, but if it’s not the right person, it doesn’t mean anything. ”

Myers thinks it’s dishonest

Myers said he and Holcomb were on a level playing field when it comes to free media exposure, noting that the governor’s profile has also benefited from his televised and live-streamed press conferences since March to detail the response state to coronavirus.

Holcomb raised significantly more money for the campaign than Myers, who didn’t have the same opportunity to speak to a larger audience so often for free.

“He’s been doing this in conjunction with a lot of media sources for months now and had to pay zero dollars for it,” Myers said. “Of course, I didn’t have that kind of opportunity.”

Myers said Holcomb’s racial equality plan was an effort to make it seem like he cared about issues he hadn’t paid much attention to before.

“Forgive me for thinking this is spurious,” Myers said, “and of course the statutory money that needs to be voted on will only come after the election, if it does happen.”

Myers proposed its own reform of criminal justice plan, including better police training, expansion and better funding of interventions, the prohibition of excessive force such as strangulation holds and the decriminalization of marijuana.

“I think he read our report on criminal justice reform that we posted on our website months ago,” Myers said. “He adopted the body cameras as we had specified. We believe they should occur both on the officer as well as in the car.”

Holcomb did not specify how the body cameras would be implemented. His office said state police were working on those details.

Others praise the governor

Republicans greatly appreciated what the governor had to say.

“I commend Governor Holcomb for helping move Indiana forward on this important issue,” said Rodric Bray, Senate Speaker Pro Tempore. “As I said recently, we in the Indiana Senate – including myself – are also working on these issues by meeting and listening to groups across the state, including law enforcement and the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus. “

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said the governor’s plans were a step towards real fairness.

“The Indiana House is committed to continuing to pursue policies and programs that will raise the level of education and prosperity of all Hoosiers, with a particular focus on those who have been and have been underserved. most needed. For our businesses and communities to be successful, all of our citizens must also have a path to prosper. “

Call IndyStar reporter Chris Sikich at 317-444-6036. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisSikich.

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