Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Failed to Review 19 Police Shootings

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is supposed to conduct a review every time an officer shoots at somebody.

But IndyStar found that in 19 incidents over two years, including in at least six fatal shootings, that never happened.

Not when a reserve officer fired upon an escaped inmate outside of Perry Meridian Middle School while children were nearby.

Not when an officer opened fire into a moving car — a practice that’s now banned by IMPD policy. The shooting killed a man sitting in the passenger seat.

And not even on at least three occasions when IMPD publicly promised it would do so.

No one in IMPD leadership seems to know why these particular 19 shootings were never reviewed. A few others were reviewed at the time.

All of the shootings, which happened in 2015 and 2016, were investigated by criminal detectives when necessary to ensure no crimes were committed, IMPD says.

But the cases lacked a crucial step of oversight: the convening of a firearms review board, comprised of three commanders and two other officers. Policy requires the boards to look through both criminal and internal investigations before delivering a report to the desk of the chief.

IMPD chiefs use that report — and the board members’ findings — to determine whether an officer’s use of force meets standards set by the department. Falling short of those standards can result in a firing or other discipline.

The reviews, which experts say are commonly used in all police departments, also highlight potential training opportunities for officers who put their lives in danger. They can also lead to necessary policy changes for a department working to reduce how many times officers fire their weapons.

At best, the lack of reviews suggests IMPD missed out on those opportunities to improve.

At worst, it raises questions over whether IMPD officers were not held accountable for policy violations that might have warranted suspension or even termination.

“That’s unacceptable. There needs to be a full accounting of why this happened, how this happened, and how you’re going to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” said Marshawn Wolley, a public affairs lecturer at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis who also is involved with the Indianapolis Urban League.

Three police chiefs, past and present, had no answer for why this happened.

Rick Hite, who served as chief through the end of 2015, wondered whether some cases slipped through the cracks during the transition to the next administration.

Troy Riggs, who previously worked as a public safety director, replaced Hite in 2016 and also thought the transition might have been part of the issue. Riggs said he recalled a backlog of shootings and set up a second review board. He said he was aware of at least 10 cases that were reviewed, but could not recall which ones.

Bryan Roach, a longtime IMPD officer who ascended to chief in 2017, said he didn’t know why the boards didn’t meet for all cases, and couldn’t speak on behalf of Hite or Riggs. He assured, however, that all 2017 cases have been reviewed or are scheduled for review.

After at least three of the shootings, IMPD sent out news releases stating that the review boards would meet to “ensure the departmental use of force was reasonable.”

But records obtained by IndyStar reveal the boards never bothered to convene after those incidents or several others.

Roach is promising that IMPD will do better. The department, he said, is adding new procedures to review shootings.

Roach also pledged to work through shootings that were never reviewed by the firearms board.

“We’re trying to fix maybe some missteps that we had in the past,” Roach said. “I think it’s our duty to fix it.”

Community leaders interviewed by IndyStar shared hopefulness that Roach will address the remaining shootings, but they remained concerned that IMPD as an agency will not improve. The failures feed broader concerns that while IMPD leaders may say the right things publicly, they act differently behind closed doors.

Unless the community can see each step following a shooting, unless this information is shared publicly, they fear police will not be held accountable for how they use lethal force in the line of duty.

“That’s why there’s such a lack of faith in the system, because the system don’t work,” said Rev. David W. Greene Sr., president of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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