Anderson Mayor Tom Broderick had good news and bad news for the city’s residents at a press conference Thursday.
In a move that will promote better transparency and enhance the public’s trust in the Anderson Police Department, Broderick announced that all APD officers and patrol cars would be outfitted with cameras.
In a move that does just the opposite, the mayor announced the APD would conduct an investigation of two suspended officers internally.
First, the good news.
Body cameras and car cameras would not only protect the public by discouraging police brutality, such cameras would also provide a measure of protection against false allegations leveled at officers.
Broderick noted that the cameras would be automatically activated whenever police are dispatched on a call and wouldn’t be deactivated until they clear the scene. This is an important consideration; an inactive camera is at least as bad as having no camera at all.
The mayor and police Chief Jake Brown said they first discussed the possibility of adding cameras after Brown was promoted to chief in January. Then the coronavirus pandemic struck, consuming the APD’s attention.
After local and national protests against police brutality following the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, the chief and mayor recently turned their attention back to police cameras.
They are fully committed, they said, to outfitting all APD officers and patrol cars. But it might take several months or more to select, order, finance and implement the cameras, the mayor and chief indicated Thursday.
The press conference came five days after APD Officer Brandon Reynolds used a chokehold, banned just two days earlier by Brown and Broderick, to take Spencer Nice, 21, to the ground during an arrest. The incident was caught on video by Nice’s girlfriend, and the video went viral.
Reynolds and Officer Ashley Gravely, who assisted at the scene, are on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
Which brings us to the bad news.
Just before the Thursday press conference, Broderick emailed The Herald Bulletin a statement saying the investigation would be conducted internally. He explained that it’s the usual procedure for the APD.
But this is an unusual situation at an unusual time in American history. With protests raging amid widespread criticism of police agendas and tactics, this is the time for transparency.
The only way to assure that the investigation of officers Reynolds and Gravely is conducted with the highest integrity? Call in an outside law enforcement agency, such as the Indiana State Police.
An internal investigation, conversely, will irritate public cynicism while further undermining trust in the police. Some will see it as a clear signal that the APD will ultimately protect its own by finding a way to justify what appears on the video to be an act of brutality.
Broderick, Brown and the APD could have scored a win-win at their Thursday press conference at a time when they need it the most.
Instead, they opened the door to public reconciliation only halfway.