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The fight for police accountability in Indianapolis continues. Answer Indiana (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) has filed a formal complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor over the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s removal of public access to department photos in response to our public records requests.
Answer Indiana has submitted several public records requests to IMPD in 2019 seeking the names, job titles, rank, dates of employment, and other public information regarding its officers.Our requests have not concerned undercover police work. In the same way that our local schools provide a list of teachers that educate our children, including their names, job titles, contact information—and, typically, their official school portraits—we believe that the public has a right to know who the police officers are who patrol our communities.
We reached out to IMPD staff photographer David Dickens via email on Saturday, April 13 to inquire as to whether photographs located on the website www.IMPDPhotography.com, a website registered to IMPD, were public records that could be used by our organization. We did not receive a clear answer.
On Sunday, we submitted a public records request to the department requesting officers’ photographs as would be used on department-issued identification. On April 16, we received word from IMPD that our request was denied, with the reason that those photographs were a part of the personnel file that can be withheld from public records requests. This does not mean that these photographs are confidential, merely that the department can legally choose not to disclose them.
In response to this denial, we submitted a further public records request on April 16 for the department to provide “photographs of individual sworn officers receiving their badge, certificate of achievement, or other similar gesture of recognition at recruit class graduations,” and indicated that such photographs had already been publicly available at IMPDPhotography.com.
On the morning of April 18, Answer Indiana discovered that all police galleries on IMPDPhotography.com—including the formerly public ones referenced in our request from two days prior—were password-locked and inaccessible to the public. In effect, the police responded to our public records request by decreasing transparency.
In our work last year, we showed that IMPD officers demonstrate a pattern of clearly racist enforcement of panhandling laws in the city’s financial district. Alongside other local community organizations, such as IMPD Transparency, we fight for heightened transparency and community-led accountability to shine a light on these abuses of power and to organize for a society where police oppression of working-class, Black, and Latinx communities is ended.