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What 'Defund the Police' actually means

Posted at 1:32 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 20:03:26-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A growing number of protesters across the United States are calling on city officials to defund their local police department.

But what would something like that actually look like?

In simplest terms, “defund the police” is a call to reduce funding to city or county police forces, and instead allocate that money into things like social services or mental health programs. Those calling for defunding the police believe those services would reduce crime in a nonviolent way.

How IMPD fits in Indianapolis’ budget

In the 2020 Indianapolis budget, roughly 31% was allocated toward the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department – about $254 million. About $1 million of that was for body cameras, something that hasn’t happened yet for IMPD officers.

IMPD’s budget has increased by about $50 million over the last decade – from $195.8 million in 2010 to the $253.9 million it is in 2020.

Adjusted for inflation, the increase is still there, but less pronounced.

The Indianapolis FOP and Council

Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder said he hopes the city “does not fall into this regressive model” of moving to defund the police department.

“It is reasonable to consider that for far too long we have not funded the level of police service we expect which has led to unintended consequences for many years to follow,” Snyder said in a statement.

Instead, Snyder said Indianapolis is just now approaching the baseline minimum staffing to keep the city safe. Last year, the city increased the starting salary of IMPD officers from $39,000 to $51,000.

He said the FOP fully supports funding for mental health care, addiction recovery and other services, but said taking away public safety money for those initiatives is short sighted. Read his full statement at the bottom of this story.

Indianapolis City-County Council spokesperson Angela Plank encouraged Indianapolis residents to reach out to their councilors to “discuss ways to strengthen the health and safety of our community.”


The ACLU of Indiana has called on Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett to shift resources away from law enforcement, and toward “community-based initiatives that support true safety, health, and well-being.”

"We've been pouring more and more resources into our police force for 30, 40, 50 years and we're not any safer than we were before,” said Elizabeth Jordan, a staff attorney for the ACLU. “This about imaging what a public safety effort looks like that's community-led."

In a statement, ACLU of Indiana executive director Jane Henegar said Hogsett’s proposal to reform IMPD’s use-of-force policy is a “critical component,” but “we must stop trying to tweak a rotten system whose roots are riddled with racism.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett's office's full statement to WRTV:

From day one, Mayor Hogsett has been committed to reimaging the criminal justice system and reinvesting in our community in order to address the root causes of violent crime. One of his first acts as mayor was the creation of the Office of Public Health and Safety – an office which seeks to take a holistic approach to the wellbeing, safety, and health of Indianapolis residents. Over the last four years, this office has nearly doubled the amount of funding and resources aimed a community programming and violence reduction efforts, in partnership with grassroots organizations.

Mayor Hogsett has marshaled public safety and health care resources to better address mental health and addition, and prioritize treatment over jailing. This has included the launch of the Reuben Engagement Center, a first-of-its kind program for Indianapolis that seeks to divert those experiencing challenges related to mental health, addiction and homelessness out of the criminal justice system, the creation of the Mobile Crisis Assistance Teams (MCAT) program, which coordinates a joint law enforcement and health professional response to help individuals facing mental health challenges, and the construction of the Community Justice Campus. Slated to open later this year, the campus will include the Assessment and Intervention Center, a facility designed to divert non-violent, low-level offenders who are suffering from addiction and mental illness from jail and connect them with treatment and wraparound services.

Additionally, Mayor Hogsett has invested in a number of significant reforms that have radically reshaped the relationship between the IMPD and the community. From instituting mandatory bias training and creating an IMPD Office of Diversity and Inclusion to announcing diversion programs and the construction of a new Community Justice Center, the Mayor has stepped boldly forward on criminal justice reform.

Over the last month, Mayor Hogsett has unveiled plans to install body cameras throughout the department by the end of the year, add civilian members to the use of force review board, make comprehensive changes to the use of force policy, and review the current discipline matrix for officers.

This holistic response has, in many ways, already begun to reimagine public safety and the criminal justice system in Marion County. And with violence still impacting too many families in Marion County, it’s clear there is more work to do.

Snyder's full statement to WRTV:

June 9, 2020

“With the discussions circulating nationwide on the move to “defund” police, our hope is our city does not fall into this regressive model.

While the raw emotion and anger over systemic injustices is real and valid, such a concept is counterproductive to what is our overall collective objective: Fair and Impartial Policing provided by well trained professionals who look like the community they serve... all with an intentional and additional focus to ensure any person of color is treated equally by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

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.

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.

In fact, it is reasonable to consider that for far too long we have not funded the level of police service we expect which has led to unintended consequences for many years to follow.

A key example of this was back to back years of the freeze on hiring Indy officers that resulted in our agency being woefully understaffed. To date, we are still struggling with attrition, the impact of losing experienced well trained officers and the disproportionate impact this has had on the diversity within IMPD (not only in hiring, but also in reduced numbers of candidates for future promotion opportunities).

Our law enforcement membership has worked in good faith with our political leaders and our residents to raise funds to right the ship and we are just now approaching the “baseline” minimum staffing we need to keep our community safe.

It has taken nearly 8 years to recover what was lost by the unfortunate step of defunding the police in the previous administration and previous council majority. We cannot move backward now with this administration and council leadership.

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

Therefore, we fully support identifying funding to ensure proper resources for mental health care, addiction recovery, reentry assistance, homelessness and other social services. However, to shift dollars from public safety to these arenas is short sighted and will simply lead to a circular approach that diminishes our city’s capacity to achieve the desired outcome: a healthy, diverse, vibrant, stable and safe community.

As always the women and men who are serving our neighborhoods, stand ready to work together to find solutions that moves our city forward."