IMPD Updates Policies, Adds Body Cameras

Utility Inc. photo

by Thomas P. Healy

Recent initiatives by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) seek to improve community relations.

Nearly six years after first investigating the possibility of outfitting police officers with body cameras, IMPD Chief Randal Taylor announced that the department has begun equipping officers with BodyWorn™ cameras. “We hope this program improves our relationship with the neighbors we serve,” Chief Taylor said during an August 8 virtual press briefing.

Thanks to a 5.5-year, $9.2 million contract with Utility Inc., a Decatur, Georgia-based manufacturer of hardware and software products for the law enforcement community, IMPD can move forward with deployment starting with East District personnel. The goal is to equip 10 officers per day with a camera that is securely mounted in a pocket sown into the officer’s uniform.

Chief Taylor said cameras will be turned on for every citizen interaction, except in instances when citizens make a request to protect their privacy. “You should assume any interaction with an officer is being recorded,” he said.

The contract covers the costs of leasing the technology, installation of the equipment, upgrades to the technology after three years, maintenance and local support to address any technology issues, and cloud-based video storage. The technology allows for the decentralized uploading of footage as well as automated recording triggers to turn the cameras on in certain situations, including:

  • Being within 500 feet of a dispatched run
  • Drawing the gun from its holster
  • Beginning to run
  • Lying flat for 10 seconds
  • Violent shaking, such as during a fight
  • Activating lights and/or sirens in the car
  • Unlocking the patrol car shotgun rack

Police officers can also activate the camera manually using a Bluetooth connection.

IMPD Reforms to Build Trust

The 1,100 officers being outfitted with BodyWorn cameras are those who respond to 911 calls, including beat officers, street supervisors, and special units. Chief Taylor said he anticipates camera deployment to be completed by early November.

Regarding data storage and security, Jason Dombkowski, director of law enforcement relations for Utility, said the company has deployed thousands of units to law enforcement agencies across the country. “The AVaiLWEB platform is a reliable system that relies on cloud storage from Amazon GovCloud,” he said. “It’s the secure cloud that has to be compliant with the Criminal Justice Information Services (CGIS) security policy.” All footage is offloaded immediately from the device to the cloud in the field. “It’s instantaneously secure,” he said.

Chief Taylor said citizens will be able to request a copy of the video footage by filing a public records request. He said the state requires the video to be stored 180 days.

Expanded Beat Policing

Midtown is located within IMPD’s North District [PDF]. The boundaries were recently changed to incorporate Golden Hill and Highland Vicinity neighborhoods.

IMPD has also expanded its beat policing as a way to improve its community policing practices that strengthen connections between neighborhoods and law enforcement. There are now 20 beats in North District, including walking beats in the Crown Hill neighborhood between 38th and 36th streets.

Use of Force Policies Updated

On July 29, IMPD adopted use of force policies [PDF] that outline de-escalation techniques, prohibit chokeholds, limit the use of lethal and less-lethal devices [PDF], and detail other practices. In a statement, Chief Taylor said, “The adoption of these new use of force standards is a substantial milestone, one that I hope demonstrates our commitment to building community trust and developing stronger neighborhood partnerships to address violent crime.”

He said IMPD is currently working to redevelop the training curriculum in line with the new policy. Training for all officers should begin soon.

Use of Force Review Board

More than a year in development, the Use of Force Review Board will include civilian members as well as police officers. The advisory group will consider instances including physical altercations, taser deployment, or use of a firearm. It can issue an advisory finding limited to determining whether the officer’s actions were within departmental policy. Civilian members include one nominated by the mayor, one nominated by the president of the City-County Council, and one nominated by members of the department. Prior to appointment, civilian members will be required to complete ride-alongs as well as receive training covering use of force, IMPD general orders, and applicable merit laws. Continuing education will also be required. Once established, the Use of Force Review Board will have the authority to review any use of force by an IMPD officer.

No More No-Knock Warrants

Chief Taylor also announced in late July that no-knock warrants will no longer be authorized for IMPD officers. “Our continued dialogue with residents has allowed us to better understand what they expect of us as a police department, and to make changes that benefit all in our community,” he said in a statement.

According to Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, when executing a search warrant law enforcement officers are required to knock and announce their presence before entering a home. “That’s to put people on notice that law enforcement is coming in, and also to protect law enforcement by giving the resident warning that it’s not someone entering with the intent on doing them harm,” he said.

Mears said a deputy prosecutor is frequently involved in the search warrant application. “Often the police will draft a search warrant and a deputy prosecutor reviews it, sometimes either adding information or confirming the facts,” he said, adding, “It’s important that the information is verified and reliable—that’s where deputy prosecutors play a crucial role.” Mears noted that an additional layer of scrutiny is essential to make sure the information in the warrant is credible and reliable and something the judicial officer can rely on. “It demonstrates to the judge that the police officers’ work has been reviewed by a deputy prosecutor,” Mears said. “It’s a big ask to break down someone’s door.”

A no-knock warrant is an order issued by a judge that authorizes law enforcement officers to enter a premises without first knocking and announcing the officers’ presence and purpose in situations where an announcement prior to entry could lead to the destruction of evidence or safety concerns.