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Indiana Probes Issues of Police Transparency

PHOTO: The divide between police and their communities, and what can be done about it, is the topic of an expert panel at Indiana University Northwest. Photo credit: Dodgerton Skillhause/morguefile.
PHOTO: The divide between police and their communities, and what can be done about it, is the topic of an expert panel at Indiana University Northwest. Photo credit: Dodgerton Skillhause/morguefile.
December 3, 2014

GARY, Ind. - Calls for better accountability among those sworn to protect their communities have followed the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Today in Gary, a panel of Indiana experts and leaders gathers to discuss the tension and controversy - and what could be done about it.

Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, said the lethal combination of communities' eroding trust in law enforcement and racial disparities in the criminal justice system needs to be addressed.

"Rather than continue in a 'us versus them' mindset, the more transparency, the more openness, the more conversations we can have about what's going on, the better we'll all feel," she said, "and the better that our police will be able to keep us safe."

Today's discussion is scheduled for noon at Indiana University Northwest and is open to the public.
Henegar said the panel will examine the constitutional boundaries that protect people from unnecessary force and unreasonable search and seizure, and what they mean for law enforcement in the 21st century.

The images broadcast around the nation of the police tactics in Ferguson draw attention to the disconnect among communities and law enforcement, Henegar said.

"Police officers on armored vehicles armed with the weapons of war - the message that that sends about the tension and disparity, and the gaps between the police officers and the people that they've sworn to protect," she said. "We need to get that balance on the right line."

Henegar said she believes there is an urgent need for transparency in police tactics and policies "so that both individual acts of individual officers are accounted for, but also that policy makers and elected officials are held accountable to the systemic impact of policies."

Following a meeting on Monday with activists, civil rights leaders and law-enforcement officials, President Obama outlined several proposals to improve policing, including a task force to investigate ways to strengthen trust between local law-enforcement agencies and communities.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN