INDIANAPOLIS — Call 6 Investigates has uncovered some of the largest police departments in central Indiana are not participating in a national Use of Force database that is intended to help the federal government analyze data and release statistics to the public.
Our newsgathering partners at Newsy found the FBI leaves the decision up to local police departments whether to participate— the same ones who are sometimes at the center of abuse allegations.
Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney spoke with state lawmakers who are concerned, and say Indiana needs to be more transparent especially at a time of so much civil unrest.
In 2018, Muncie Police body cameras were recording during the arrest of Jessie Vernon in which officers used a stun gun on Vernon while he was handcuffed.
Vernon suffered injuries, including a broken collar bone, and has required multiple surgeries since the incident with police.
The incident is the subject of an excessive force lawsuit filed by Vernon in federal court.
But you won’t find the incident in the FBI’s Use of Force database, because the Muncie Police Department has not participated in the voluntary program.
Indiana State Police also does not participate in the FBI’s Use of Force data collection.
ISP has 1,715 employees including 1,257 sworn personnel.
“I want to know why, and it’s kind of concerning,” said Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis. “I think a national database makes sense.”
Shackleford is the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus chair, who has also been vocal about the need for police reform.
She said Indiana police departments should participate so we can know how often police are using force on people and if minorities are disproportionally impacted.
"We've seen it cause deaths,” said Shackleford. “I'm sure there's a high proportion of law enforcement officers who use a high use of force or excessive force when it comes to dealing with the black population. So, we for one would like to see that data, would like to see that information."
ISP declined our repeated requests for an on-camera interview or an explanation as to why the agency isn’t participating in the FBI’s Use of Force data collection.
“The Indiana State Police has not voluntarily sent data to the FBI’s new database,” said ISP First Sergeant Ron Galaviz in an email. “At this time, there are no plans to send data to that database in the future, but that continues to be evaluated and could change.”
By contrast, the Indianapolis Metro Police Department sends their use of force data to the FBI on a monthly basis.
Greenwood Police also participates in the national data collection, and Lawrence Police is working on gaining access to the portal.
Carmel Police is participating but has not had a use of force incident that met the criteria for the database.
Fishers Police says it will report use of force incidents to the FBI database as well, but so far they have not had any incidents that met the criteria such as when a fatality occurs connected to use of force, when there is serious bodily injury connected to use of force, or when a firearm is discharged by law enforcement at or in the direction of a person.
Our newsgathering partners at Newsy found 60% of our country’s police officers do not work at agencies participating in the FBI’s Use of Force database.
"If you don't think that's important to report, what message are you sending to everyone else in your agency?” said Kevin Robinson, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University and former assistant police chief at Phoenix PD. “What message are you sending to everyone in your community? That force doesn't matter."
Robinson said reporting use of force incidents against citizens should be of such high priority for police agencies, they should lose access to state and federal grants if they fail to volunteer the information to the FBI.
“Quite honestly, you're gathering the information anyway, or at least you should be,” said Robinson. “Reporting it, to me, is not that big of a deal."
There’s no penalty for police departments who don’t participate in the FBI’s Use of Force database, unlike the Uniform Crime Report (UCR)—police departments can risk losing federal funding if they don’t participate in that.
Indiana State Police do not have body-worn cameras, nor does every vehicle have a dash camera installed.
Shackleford said aside from cameras, tracking and publishing data on use of force incidents is another way for police to earn back trust from the community.
“We are wanting our officers to be more accountable and more transparent,” said Shackleford. “So when you're talking about accountability and transparency, it just makes sense to have that information. "
RTV6 requested an on-camera interview with Muncie Police Chief Nathan Sloan, who just took over in January.
The former police chief Joe Winkle’s son, Chase Winkle, and two other Muncie police officers were federally indicted for excessive force related allegations.
All three cases are still pending.