Holcomb Announces New Cabinet Officer For Equity, Mandates Body Cameras

Aug 18, 2020

Gov. Eric Holcomb says he wants to be a “barrier buster” to help reduce racial inequality in the Hoosier State.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Gov. Eric Holcomb says he wants to be a “barrier buster” to help reduce racial inequality in the Hoosier State.

Holcomb announced Tuesday that will include creating a new government position and sharing data on racial disparities.

The Republican laid out about half a dozen specific actions he will take. The first is creating a new cabinet post – Chief Equity, Inclusion and Opportunity Officer – to work across state government.

“In short, this new cabinet member will help every state agency raise their game,” Holcomb said.

The new hire would be the 19th member of Holcomb's cabinet. Three of the current group are people of color; five are women.

Holcomb will also mandate body cameras for every frontline state trooper by spring of next year. And he wants an outside group to review training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, which instructs about two-thirds of police across the state.

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“We’ll look at areas like use of force, de-escalation training and implicit bias training,” Holcomb said.

That review lines up with proposals from the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus. But Holcomb administration officials said the outside group will be one composed of former law enforcement personnel and not civilians.

Not included in Holcomb's announcement is a ban on chokeholds, which the Black Caucus calls for. The administration says the issue is more complicated and is reviewing use of force broadly.

Many of Holcomb's proposals involve data, including most notably the creation of a Public Disparity Data Portal. It's meant to reveal shortcomings across Indiana's systems when it comes to equity and inclusion.

"We’ll put our cards on the table, face up," Holcomb said. "This type of public dashboard transparency is critical if we’re all going to move forward together toward equity and greater opportunity."

Some of the information that will be on the portal includes pre-K enrollment, graduation, college enrollment and employment rates, access to capital, Healthy Indiana Plan enrollment and other health indicators like substance abuse resources and smoking, diabetes and hypertension rates, foster care placement rates and incarceration and recidivism rates.

Existing shortcomings – backed up by data – prompt other Holcomb plans. The governor said he'll direct the new Indiana Secretary of Education – coming in January, replacing the State Superintendent of Public Instruction – to prioritize recruitment of minority teachers. Holcomb also said he wants the state to do a better job recruiting more minorities and minority-owned businesses through state job training programs.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.