Students, staff, faculty members and police officers from across the Indiana University system are helping IU Public Safety staff examine how IUPD officers handle situations that may require the use of force.
The De-escalation and Training Commission, created by Superintendent of Public Safety Benjamin Hunter and chaired by IUPD Chief Diversity Officer Wayne James, is charged with performing a careful review of policies, training and equipment needed to ensure the safety of both officers and community members.
Hunter created the commission within months of beginning his role as superintendent of public safety at IU. The review wasn't prompted by any incidents at IU but reflects national concern about options available to police when encountering resistance.
"Identifying and providing needed training is critical to this review," Hunter said. "IUPD has been progressive in its work to engage the community; this is a vital extension of that effort."
IUPD options include pepper spray, batons, firearms and training in verbal judo, de-escalation, and critical incidents involving people with mental illness. The commission could identify areas where training needs to be enhanced or suggest a need for more or different less-lethal options. Even the definition of use of force is being examined to determine if the nearly 200 officers across IUPD define and report it the same way.
“Controversial police-involved shootings have inflamed communities across the country. Therefore, the safety of our officers and the community we serve is the utmost priority," said James, also the IUPD chief at IU Northwest.
The commission has met four times and is working through the information-gathering portion of the review process. It is looking at use of force reports, for example, to determine if having other options available for specific incidents would have been useful. The commission is expected to complete its work by the end of the semester.