The nationwide protests against police misconduct last summer, including several peaceful demonstrations in Northwest Indiana, have spurred Hoosier lawmakers to direct Indiana law enforcement officers to opt for de-escalation where possible, instead of increasing their use of force.
On Tuesday, the Indiana Senate joined the House in unanimously approving the police reforms in House Enrolled Act 1006, which soon is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.
The measure requires de-escalation training be taught in conjunction with the proper use of force to new and returning officers at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, and provides $70 million to upgrade the facilities at the state's police academy to that end.
It also defines a chokehold as a type of deadly force and permits its use only to prevent the commission of a felony or while arresting a person who the officer has probable cause to believe poses a threat of serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.
Under the proposal, police officers who intentionally turn off a body camera to conceal a criminal act by themselves or other officers can be charged with a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
In addition, the legislation attempts to stop bad cops from moving from department to department by requiring a locality check the disciplinary record of any potential officer hire from every police agency where the job candidate previously worked.
State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said he's "extremely pleased" the plan is headed to the governor's desk with bipartisan support in both chambers of the General Assembly.
"This is a historic piece of legislation and is a good first step in beginning to address and improve relations with law enforcement," Melton said. "The bill addresses concerns Hoosiers voiced last summer, including chokehold bans under certain circumstances and required de-escalation training for officers."
"As a black man in Indiana, seeing this proposal pass with overwhelming, unanimous support gives me hope for our future, and I will continue working to improve our criminal justice system."
State Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, a former Indianapolis police officer, said many officers and departments already are doing these things, but this measure ensures statewide accountability for Hoosier law enforcement.