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Citizen reviewers work to make IMPD body cam footage 'easier to understand'

Posted at 7:51 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 08:23:07-04

INDIANAPOLIS — They are the regular citizens who review the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's body-worn camera video before it's released to the public.

IMPD released eight videos showing police-involved shootings. Since October 2020, the videos have been first reviewed by a citizens group whose input is credited for improving the content that is made public.

The videos depict some of the high-profile exchanges between the public and police, and each is different.

IMPD Chief Randal Taylor and a group of 50 community members first meet online and on a set date, the group meets to see body-worn camera footage of a police-involved shooting before it's released to the public.

"We're being transparent as much as we can, especially in police-action shootings," Taylor said. "I feel the community needs to be involved in the work that we do, and they need to know personally what we're doing."

The group is given limited details about the situation. After the presentation, they get to work.

"I'm assessing what is verbally said, what is not being said — the actions demeanor, the level of rudeness, level of civility and seeing whether this was a good interaction between civilian and law enforcement," Ashley Gurvitz, a citizens review member, said.

People may ask for more videos from other officers to better understand what's happening, or they may ask for the addition of written words on a video to make clear what the officer or suspect is saying.

WRTV joined Taylor on the day the group was set to review video from a police-involved shooting that occurred May 29. In the incident, a man shot and injured an IMPD officer during a police chase.

Over time, the department says the group's feedback has improved the quality of the videos posted on its YouTube channel. The videos not only show what was caught on camera, but they can also help IMPD with the training of officers if a trend emerges.

"It's not perfect right, but we are leading to be in the right direction. With body cameras in place, we're moving in the right direction," Gurvitz said. "What this has actually done, I feel, is make it a little easier to understand what's happening on the other side."

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