Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) has joined the conversation around school policing, but it’s doing so through a racial equity lens. IPS has partnered with the Indiana University Public Policy Institute’s Center for Research on Inclusion & Social Policy (CRISP) to identify best practices for policing throughout the district’s schools.

IPS commissioned the Racial Equity in School Policing study to assess the extent to which existing IPS Police Department (IPS PD) practices, policies and procedures align with racially equitable evidence-based practices. Through surveys completed by district teachers, students, families and staff, and interviews with IPS PD, CRISP recommended reforms IPS should consider to improve practices and achieve more effective, sustained, and improved student outcomes. 

Historically, nationwide, Black and Hispanic/Latinx students attend schools that have a high population of school police (i.e., school resource officers). These same students also disproportionately represent the largest percentage of discipline incidents in schools. As an example, the IPS study found that Black students, who had the highest arrest rates, were seven times more likely to be arrested by IPS PD than white students during the last four school years — from 2016 to 2020. 

“Racial equity is one of our district’s four strategic priorities and factors into all aspects of our work throughout the district, including the IPS Police Department. It is critical that all teams in our district operate in ways that cultivate success of all of our students, with an intentional focus on disrupting practices that have led to disproportionate negative outcomes for our Black and Brown students particularly,” said IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson. “The IPS Police Department is working hard every day to serve our communities. This study will help us to provide more support and training to our IPS police officers and ensure that we continue to build a strong police department that centers our students’ well-being and keeps them safe.”

The research study included a focus on four major categories:

  • Governance and Oversight
  • Transparency and Accountability
  • Collaboration
  • Trainings and Professional Development

The study provides a framework for IPS PD to explore potential solutions for enhanced support of all IPS students and families. Recommendations touch on all four areas and offer sustainable growth and development opportunities such as being able to delineate between student misconduct and criminal offense. 

“As in-school policing becomes increasingly commonplace, it is critical to understand how these practices affect academic and social outcomes for students of color,” said CRISP Director of Evaluation Roxy Lawrence. “We hope this research sheds light on how IPS PD polices impact students while also providing a roadmap for the district on how to address these disparities in meaningful and equitable ways.”

The study methodology included a review of existing literature on evidence and school-based policing practices, a review of IPS PD operating procedures, interviews with IPS PD staff, and surveys of school staff, students and parents/guardians. 

Under the leadership of IPS Police Chief Tonia Guynn, the district’s police department had already begun working on several initiatives to better prepare and equip all school resource officers (SROs). These efforts include:

  • Updating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Refining definitions to make it clear that the department is focused on school-based solutions
  • Adding additional school-based training to build more positive role model opportunities with students
  • Working on best practices with SROs to have better relationships with students and families

A plan based on the study’s recommendations will be presented in the first quarter of 2022.