Senate Committee Debates Ban On 'Defunding' Police, Public Safety

Jan 8, 2021

Police fired tear gas canisters, flares and pepperspray into a crowd of demonstrators after declaring their assembly unlawful during protests in late May.
Credit (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Legislation debated in an Indiana Senate committee Thursday would ban local governments from ever decreasing police or fire department budgets, unless there’s a revenue shortfall.

The measure is a response to the debate raised in 2020 over “defunding” the police.

Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores) said his bill aims to eliminate the possibility that any decrease to public safety funding can ever become a “political bargaining chip.”

“This is such an important issue that we do not want to allow that to be something that can be threatened or can be used as a threat or as just a form of public discourse,” Bohacek said.

Bohacek couldn’t name an Indiana community that has “defunded” police. Nor could the Indiana Sheriff’s Association, which supports the bill – along with police officer and firefighter associations.

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

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Lindsey Moss lobbies for Accelerate Indiana Municipalities (Aim), which represents Hoosier cities and towns. She said the bill would disincentivize local governments from reducing costs that don’t reduce the quality of public safety.

“For example, if the police department chooses a different vendor that provides body camera storage at a much lower cost or changing work schedules or hiring more officers to avoid paying out as much in overtime," Moss said.

The committee did not vote on the bill. Bohacek said it’s still in a “raw” form.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.