Under House-Approved Bill, State Police To Prioritize Protecting Monuments, Statues

Apr 7, 2021

House-approved legislation requires the State Police to prioritize investigation of anyone who damages or just vandalizes a monument, memorial, statue or other “commemorative” property, both public and private.
Credit Justin Hicks / IPB News

House lawmakers voted Tuesday to prioritize protecting monuments and statues across the state, even cutting off some funding from local governments that don’t.

The legislation, SB 187, requires Indiana State Police to prioritize investigation of anyone who damages or just vandalizes a monument, memorial, statue or other “commemorative” property, both public and private.

Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) is troubled by that.

“This bill is saying, ‘We would rather catch a vandal for defacing a statue over a predator who has molested a child,’” Shackleford said.

But Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne), the bill's sponsor, argued it doesn’t say what “prioritize” means.

“It can be the bottom of my priorities," Lehman said. "Nothing in here says it’s got to be the top priority, you put everything else aside and focus solely on monuments.”

The bill also says if local governments don’t prioritize protecting monuments, the state can withhold some funding. Shackleford said that includes dollars that flow to local law enforcement – in essence, she said, defunding the police.

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And the measure revived language from another bill to make it easier to charge rioters with a felony. The provision classifies riots as a felony if they cause at least $750 of damage and at least five people are involved.

The bill passed by a 68-25 vote and is headed back to the Senate.

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