Tuesday, May 19, 2015

White House Says Indianapolis Chosen To Participate In Data Release: IMPD Says "Not So Fast"

As a citizen blogger who has been repeatedly and arbitrarily denied access to public records by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, it was curious that the White House would announce yesterday that the department has agreed to participate in a transparency in policing initiative that will include the release of 101 data sets of information previously not released to the public, such as use of force, traffic stops and officer-involved shootings, that will serve as "early warning systems" to identify police officers who have difficulties in their interactions with the public. The White House press release reads, in part:
All 21 police departments have committed to release a combined total of 101 data sets that have not been released to the public. The types of data include uses of force, police pedestrian and vehicle stops, officer involved shootings and more, helping the communities gain visibility into key information on police/citizen encounters . . .
While many police departments have systems in place, often called “early warning systems,” to identify officers who may be having challenges in their interactions with the public and link them with training and other assistance, there has been little to no research to determine which indicators are most closely linked to bad outcomes. To tackle this issue, twelve police departments committed to sharing data on police/citizen encounters with data scientists for in-depth data analysis, strengthening the ability of police to intervene early and effectively: Austin, TX; Camden, NJ; Charlotte, NC; Dallas, TX; Indianapolis, IN; Knoxville, TN; LA City; LA County; Louisville, KY; New Orleans, LA; Philadelphia, PA; and Richmond, CA.
Apparently the White House didn't fully brief IMPD on what the program entailed before it made its announcement yesterday, particularly since transparency is just a slogan the department uses, not something it actually practices. Check out this comment in The Star today from department spokesman, Sgt. Kendale Adams, one of the jerks who've ignored public information requests from Advance Indiana:
According to IMPD Sgt. Kendale Adams, Chief Rick Hite "had a different understanding" of the initiative than what's been laid out by White House officials.
"Chief Hite is working with the group of law enforcement leaders to determine the scope and challenges of this initiative," Adams told The Indianapolis Star. "Many of the recommendations will present different challenges for different communities and police departments."
At this time, there's no timetable set for the release of the statistics the initiative has vowed to make public, and Hite has yet to decide what IMPD's participation level will be in the program, Adams said.
Still, the release from the White House describes the initiative as "fast, tangible, collaborative," and insists the departments involved have committed to overhaul their level of transparency and improve community relations.
"IMPD has seen significant growth in community engagement over the last three years and we will continue to look for additional opportunities to engage our community even more," Adams said.
Speaking of transparency, it's refreshing to see someone else in the media publicly discuss what I've been telling you about the department for some time--you can't believe anything it tells the public. The Indianapolis Recorder's Shannon Williams has been telling her newspaper's readers about the negative experience she had in trying to report a hit-and-run of her dog. Williams willingness to discuss her grievance with the department publicly is particularly refreshing since some in the black media won't criticize the department simply because it's now headed by a black man, IMPD Chief Rick Hite. Williams filed a citizen's complaint against the police officer who was dispatched to respond to her call, whom she described as "rude and unprofessional." While she was happy she got a hearing of her complaint against the officer, she was less than happy with its outcome. In a column titled, "Disappointed with layers of deceit in IMPD," Williams writes:
After an investigation, my case was called before the Citizens Police Complaint Board earlier this week. I attended the meeting and was highly impressed with the board members and the manner in which meetings are conducted.
However, the investigating sergeant’s report is now out, and I’m incredibly disappointed. The sergeant is responsible for reviewing details of the case, determining if the officer was in the wrong and if necessary, make the appropriate recommendations for disciplinary action or other steps regarding the situation.
Initially, of the five points or charges, the Professional Standards Division (PSD) found three to be not sustained and two to be sustained. Not sustained means they didn’t believe there was evidence to support my claims. For example, rudeness was a claim I made, but the PSD found that to be untrue so they ruled it as not sustained.
The review board however voted for two of the three not sustained charges be sustained. A positive affirmation of four of five claims isn’t bad, so I’m pleased with the board’s decisions and I encourage the public to report wrongdoings in an effort to hold public servants accountable.
However, the larger issue for me is that aspects of the report were not only inaccurate, but some “findings” were actual lies. My words were misconstrued completely and a false stage was set in an attempt to dispute my complaint or substantiate the inappropriate behavior of the officer.
I could go through the long list of untruths, ways in which my words were taken out of context, or the bizarre attempts to defend the officer’s rude behavior and condescending tone, but instead I will just mention a few:
  • To rationalize the officer’s curt behavior, he claimed he thought I was a victim of domestic violence and “the other person left.” Such a notion is ludicrous because I told the dispatch repeatedly my dog was hit and that was the reason for my call. (And guess what? Even if I were a victim of domestic abuse, I still deserve to be treated fairly. )
  • The officer claimed I never asked for a report to be filed, which is completely untrue. I explained to the officer repeatedly that the dispatch officer informed me since I had a license plate number of the offender, I could file a report, which is why an officer was dispatched to my home in the first place.
  • The report claimed I lacked credibility. The reason for such a claim is unknown to me. I’m an educated media professional often called upon to make speeches and participate in forums in the course of my duties at the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. In addition, my friend who was present during the incident is highly esteemed in the education arena and holds a PhD.
  • The report alleged that my complaint against the driver who hit my dog was inconsistent because I respectfully referred to the reckless driver as “a gentleman” when speaking with the sergeant. I suppose the officer would have preferred I call him a thug or some profane expletive.
As I listened to the report the sergeant provided, I was appalled mostly because I could not believe such an effort was made to protect an officer who was simply rude, which is a relatively minor offense. It made me think what lengths would be taken to protect someone who committed a more severe offense. That realization terrified me, and sadly substantiates some of the claims people make about cover-ups in police departments . . .
It's too bad members of the media aren't interested in other police cover-ups that Advance Indiana has covered, here and here.  


Anonymous said...

What of Boone County of the last 13 years?

Anonymous said...

Gary, Apparently nothing is transparent in Indy. For example, try to get a copy of a City Councilors Statement of Economic Interest. Specifically, find a copy of Councilor Jack E. Sandlin’s statement.

Maybe you want to compare it with past years statement to try and understand why he (finally) released the facts that he had contracts with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and City of Indianapolis paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

No wonder he always voted the way Curry and Ballard wanted.

They only talk “transparency.” They do not walk the walk because they are corrupt.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The problem lies with the underlying ethics ordinance governing the statements of economic interest. Like the state's law, the city's ethics ordinance was written by Barnes & Thornburg attorneys. The law requires no meaningful disclosure so what the council members file is pretty much useless. The sanction for not complying with the weak law is so minimal that there is no real reason to worry about compliance. State lawmakers have, surprisingly, toughened the state's ethics law. I'm anxiously awaiting the new reporting forms to see just how substantive those changes proved to be.