IN Brief

Bill creating 25-foot “buffer zone” between police and bystanders advances

By: - March 7, 2023 3:00 pm

Plainfield Police Chief Kyle Pruitt testifies in support of a proposal making it a crime to refuse a police officer’s request to move 25 feet away. (Leslie Bonilla Muñiz/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

A Republican-led Senate corrections committee voted along party lines, 5-2, to advance a bill that would create a 25-foot “buffer zone” between law enforcement and bystanders.

House Bill 1186 previously passed a House committee with unanimous approval – though some Democrats flipped their votes when the bill appeared before the full House Chamber, where it passed along party lines

To author Rep. Wendy McNamara, the proposal would reduce potentially violent encounters between law enforcement and citizens. 

“Ultimately, this bill is about creating a life-saving space for officers to do their job… while adhering to the philosophy of de-escalation,” McNamara, R-Evansville, said. 

Law enforcement testified in support of the bill, praising its utility in the field as Hoosiers’ negative sentiment toward the profession grows. 

“You may have to do this with multiple third-party subjects who have no involvement or interest but are now inches away from you,” said Howard County Deputy Sheriff Jordan Buckley, who also represented the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association. “This is an unsafe practice that often escalates situations and leads to further confrontation or the use of force. Because of this and other challenges, it is more important than over to establish a perimeter.”

The bulk of the testimony in opposition to the bill focused on the ability of bystanders to capture police misconduct. Video has played a crucial role in several investigations into police abuse, including the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, whose death was filmed by a teenage bystander.

“We believe, strongly, that existing law provides the protections that law enforcement needs,” said Zach Stock, with the Indiana Public Defender Council. 

The bill now advances to the full Senate chamber for further consideration.

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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.