Indianapolis police to get body cameras in wake of killings

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Indianapolis police officers will be equipped with body cameras starting this summer in an effort that was already underway before officers fatally shot two black men last week, sparking protests, city officials said Tuesday.

Police have said Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, 21, and McHale Rose, 19, both shot at officers before they were killed in separate incidents just hours apart. Activist groups have demanded transparency and accountability as the shootings are investigated.

The shootings were not recorded by any police camera because the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is only now moving to implement a program. But events surrounding Reed’s shooting were livestreamed on Facebook, apparently from Reed’s cellphone.

Mayor Joe Hogsett said the city has been working for 18 months to provide body cameras for its 1,700-officer force. He said the planned deployment was not “necessarily driven” by the recent shootings and subsequent protests.

“What the events last week underscored though is a tragic set of circumstances that affected our entire community,” Hogsett said at a news conference. He said he shares the community’s “heartbreak” over the shootings and also the death of a pregnant woman who was struck by an officer’s car.

Hogsett announced Friday that he had asked the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI to “actively monitor” the shooting investigations. Marion County’s prosecutor asked a court to appoint an independent prosecutor to handle the investigation into Reed’s shooting.

Reed’s parents also held a news conference Tuesday where they tearfully recalled their son as a happy, lovable young man. An attorney said the family might sue over Reed’s killing during a foot chase.

Jamie Reed has questioned why no police cameras captured footage of his son’s shooting. He said the killing is still unfathomable nearly a week later.

“I just can’t picture why this happened. It just hurts so bad,” he said.

Police Chief Randal Taylor said the deployment of the body cameras would begin sometime between early July and late September. The department hopes to outfit 100 officers a week during the initial rollout, and eventually equip about 1,100 patrol officers, supervisors and specialty units, police spokeswoman Aliya Wishner said.

The city will lease the cameras from a vendor but the contract with that company, Utility, is not yet final, she said.

The City-County Council funded the $1.2 million effort in the city’s 2020 budget in October. Indianapolis will need to dedicate about $2.4 million annually to support the body camera program in future years, said Taylor Schaffer, a spokeswoman for Hogsett.

“Emotions are running high in our city right now,” Taylor, the police chief, said during the news conference with Hogsett, adding that he understands the frustration over the pace of the body camera program.

Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said the department has implemented technology to support the cameras in the past 18 months, and the necessary upgrades delayed the introduction of the cameras on the force.

“Trying to cram a bunch of new technology in at the same time really sets you on a path to disaster if you don’t do it in the correct way,” Bailey said.

The cameras will automatically start recording via a computer-aided dispatch program that assesses what officers are doing, he said.

Taylor and Hogsett also announced the planned creation of a police use-of-force review board staffed by merit-ranked officers and civilians appointed by the police chief. That panel, which is expected to be in place within the next few months, will replace an existing police firearms review board that has no civilian members, Wishner said.

The new review board would investigate police shootings, stun gun use, and altercations involving officers. It will determine whether the officer’s actions were within departmental policy but won’t have the authority to recommend officer discipline.

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