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INDIANAPOLIS–Indianapolis should re-imagine the role of the police department, said the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. They suggest that as Mayor Joe Hogsett begins to work on his budget proposal for 2021 that he shift money from law enforcement and put it toward programs that benefit communities of color.

“Mayor Hogsett must commit to reimagining the role police play in our city and that role has to be smaller, more circumscribed, and less funded with tax-payer dollars,” said Jane Henegar, executive director for the ACLU.

LISTEN: Jane Henegar with the ACLU of Indiana talks re-imagining the role of police.

The statement is less than a week after Hogsett pledged police reforms, including the implementation of body cameras, which was demanded by groups like Faith in Indiana. That program is costly.

“IMPD’s budget makes up more than 30 percent of the city’s budget. As Mayor Hogsett works with the city council to begin the 2021 budget process, we must shift resources away from law enforcement and towards Black and Brown community-based initiatives that support true safety, health, and well-being. Budgets are not created in a vacuum. They can be changed through targeted advocacy and organizing. We can demand that our local officials, including city council members and mayors, stop allocating funds for more officers and more militarized equipment,” said Henegar.

While she was not critical of some of the targeted reforms, Henegar’s statement said the reforms may be too little to be effective.

“While Mayor Hogsett’s proposal to reform IMPD’s use-of-force policy is a critical component, a few trainings and updates to IMPD’s policies just won’t cut it. Indianapolis is hurting. We must stop trying to tweak a rotten system whose roots are riddled with racism. We can only start real change with a bold and shared reimagining of law enforcement policies, practices, and cultures,” she said.

She said the ACLU is committed to ending “our country’s long nightmare of police violence”.

Henegar said she hopes leaders in other parts of the state will watch what happens in Indianapolis and believes leaders should expect to be held accountable for how they spend taxpayer money.

“Different communities have to look at their own budgets. Are we investing in our community? We want our government and our government leaders to keep our public safe. But, we can be safe and free,” said Henegar.

Rick Snyder, president of Indy’s Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 86, said defunding police is a mistake that leads to a higher crime rate.

“We also must ensure the same equality and opportunity exists for education, health care, employment, nutrition, transportation, family structure and other needs. We must identify ways to expand the pie of revenue not simply shift the limited resources we currently use to operate within public safety,” he said.

“None of these areas of focus can be achieved without safety for every neighborhood. Our residents have made clear they want good policing not less.”

He said Indianapolis is still recovering from the problems a police hiring freeze caused. He believes having fewer police has helped lead to a 41 percent increase in the city’s murder rate.

The significance of such a proposed move is highlighted by Indy’s current 41% increase in homicides.

While Henegar did not suggest how much of the budget should be redirected to other programs besides policing, she said that she believes it makes no sense to keep doubling down on policies that do not work.