Probe of Indianapolis police practices reveals complete lack of accountability

INDIANAPOLIS—In just seven weeks in August and September 2023, more people died at the hands of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) than in all of 2022. Following this wave of killings, the IndyStar began tracking police shootings in the city. The Star reported that 17 officer-involved shootings occurred in 2023—nine of them resulting in death.

Among those killed were Gary “Baby G” Harrell, shot in the back as he fled from IMPD, and Darcel Edwards, whom officers shot out a tree he had climbed to take refuge while trying to flee IMPD in fear for his life. Also included are those suffering from mental health crises, whom IMPD was called to help, such as Frederick Davis and Kendall Gilbert.

Not included in these statistics are those killed without firearms, such as Joseph Stiger, a Black man who was struck and killed by an IMPD patrol car while riding his bike on Indy’s east side. According to Mapping Police Violence, at least 12 people were killed by police in Marion County in 2023, compared with three in 2022, and four in 2021. Despite making up over 57% of the population of Indianapolis, only one of those killed by police in 2023 was white.

The murders aren’t the only concern when it comes to IMPD, though.

On Jan 26, 2024, 24-year department veteran Paul Humphrey was arrested on four counts of sexual misconduct, three of child seduction, and one count each of attempted obstruction, official misconduct, and voyeurism.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Humphrey began assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 2022. He originally met her while she was in 2nd grade, through his son, who was in her class at school. He later served as her soccer coach during her 8th-grade year.

The assault reportedly began during her sophomore year of high school, while she was employed through his lawn care business. As stated in the affidavit, Humphrey could track the girl with a GPS app installed on her phone.

All the recent bad press has prompted many in this city to take a bigger picture look at the IMPD.

Indianapolis policing history

In the aftermath of civil unrest in 2020 surrounding the police killing of George Floyd—and locally, IMPD’s killings of Dreasjon Reed, McHale Rose, and Ashlynn Lisby—the Indianapolis City-County Council reformed the cities “Use of Force and General Orders Boards.” These Boards were retooled to include civilian members as well as the law enforcement members who were previously serving.

Although citizens constitute a majority of these boards, the final say on who is appointed to them belongs to IMPD’s chief of police. Indianapolis followed the lead of many other metropolitan areas at the time and instituted an officer-worn body camera program.

“Every community in our city deserves to feel that they are being served and listened to as much as any other citizen,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett told the IndyStar in 2020.

However, Indiana state law allows police to withhold body camera footage for a myriad of reasons, including if it is part of an ongoing investigation, if the video may cause harm to a person, or even if the police feel the footage does not serve the public interest.

Despite being presented as a tool of accountability, footage has regularly been withheld, as seen in IMPD’s killing of Herman Whitfield III, Frederick Davis, and Gary Harrell, and in its shooting of Anthony Maclin.

IndyStar, July 10, 2004.

The department released heavily edited and narrated footage in most of these cases and only released the full unedited footage of their actions at the Whitfield home following a court order stemming from the family’s lawsuit.

In the case of Whitfield, known by his loved ones as Tres, IMPD’s public relations division initially released limited footage that attempted to present him as a threat to officers. This narrative was destroyed, however, when the Whitfield family and their attorneys released the full footage alongside their compilation of the videos in January 2023.

“This video counters IMPD’s [Critical Incident Video], which inaccurately stated that Herman was dangerous, was throwing things, and rushed an officer,” the Whitfields said in a press release issued by their attorneys.

The police chief, the mayor, and the “civilian” use of force board have yet to announce fault in any of the shootings or killings—despite four officers currently indicted by two separate grand juries in the killing of Whitfield and the shooting of Maclin.

No accountability

“They go through training with us, they learn our policies, they are continuously given updated training if we change something,” Catherine Cummings, IMPD Deputy Chief of Training, Policy, and Oversight said of the Use of Force Review Board to Fox59 in October 2023.

Any time an officer uses deadly force, the board conducts a mandatory hearing. The board determines whether the officer followed IMPD’s 12-page use of force policy. Among other things, the video in the Whitfield case shows a violation of IMPD General Order 8.1: “Officers should avoid leaving any arrestee/detainee on their chest or stomach….” Whitfield is clearly seen being cuffed and held face down.

Furthermore, one of the officers indicted in the shooting of Maclin, Alexander Gregory, had used physical force against Herman Whitfield, Jr., and Gladys Whitfield eight months before firing on Maclin.

“It’s as if the police decide who sits on the board,” Jason Jones, a clinical social worker and police accountability activist with the Communist Party of Indiana (CPUSA), sarcastically told People’s World.

“We’ve had numerous police actions here over the past three years where there is evidence of the officer’s malpractice, evidence strong enough to bring criminal charges, and our use of force board and other city leadership are silent,” Jones said.

“It shows the importance of elected community control over our police vs. the appointments we have today.”

Jones and others in Indianapolis are advocating for community control, as fought for by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression.

Amidst the string of killings that began in August, calls for IMPD Chief Randall Taylor to resign began to grow. As early as the third week of the month, Concerned Clergy called for his resignation, citing Taylor’s responsibility for the “lack of accountability among officers in the department” that creates an environment conducive to these inhumane police crimes.

New chief, same practices?

Despite enjoying the continued support of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, Taylor announced in December 2023 that he would resign at the end of the year. His decision was well received by many in Indianapolis; however, some believe the City’s choice of a new police leader continues to show a continued failure to commit to systems of accountability.

On Jan.10, the mayor named Christopher Bailey as acting chief of police. Bailey was previously assistant chief and has served for 25 years with IMPD. He previously made news when taking and then abruptly leaving a chief of police position in Asheville, N.C. in 2019 to return to IMPD. Bailey appears regularly in local media, but one troublesome report that appeared in the IndyStar on July 10, 2004, has returned to public attention since his appointment as chief.

“Prosecutors offered this version of events,” the article by Vic Ryckaert stated. “On July 2, Bailey went to Spring Bailey’s home”—according to court documents, Christopher and Spring Bailey were living separately and in the process of getting a divorce. After Spring refused Christopher entry to the home, “he pushed through the door and knocked her to the floor.”

Once inside, according to prosecutors, “Bailey threw a punch at Benjamin Weir [another man present in the home]…grabbed Weir by the neck” and then “lifted his shirt to show a holstered handgun and told Weir, ‘If I ever see you around my wife again, I will kill you.’”

This incident led to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office charging Christopher Bailey with two felonies and three misdemeanors: Domestic Battery, Residential Entry, Intimidation, and two counts of Battery.

Ultimately, Bailey pled guilty to one misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass in a plea agreement and served 24 days probation before a Marion County Court granted a motion for its dismissal. Upon receiving our public records request, the Marion County Clerk’s Office offered a summary but stated it would need a court order to release all documents related to the record since the case has been sealed.

Prosecutor’s Office staff told People’s World that they cannot speak on sealed cases. Neither IMPD nor the Marion County Sheriff’s Department have a police report of this incident, nor the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) files that we requested.

However, Asheville’s Citizen-Times was able to obtain some records in 2019. Despite originally being announced as an interim and not a candidate for the job, on Feb. 12, Mayor Joe Hogsett named Bailey as permanent chief of IMPD.

For those looking to get involved in the fight for police accountability in Indianapolis, please write to

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Jacob Watkins
Jacob Watkins

Jacob Watkins is an activist who writes from Indianapolis, Indiana.