A review of the Indianapolis Public Schools Police Department

In light of the national and local focus on police reform and the Indianapolis Public Schools' commitment to being an antiracist institution, IPS administration contacted PPI’s Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy to assist them in identifying the best practices for achieving racially equitable policing practices within their school district.

CRISP researchers conducted a review of Indianapolis Public Schools Police Department’s (IPS PD) operations, highlighting established practices that help facilitate the safety of students, school administration, and staff. The study focused primarily on key components of successful school resource officer programs: governance and oversight, transparency and accountability, collaboration, and training and professional development.

Researchers examined existing literature on evidence-based school policing practices and interviewed and surveyed key IPS constituents—members of IPS PD, IPS administration, staff, students, and parents or caregivers. The research team also conducted a comprehensive review of IPS PD documents, including its standard operating procedures and incident reports.

Key findings

  • While IPS PD has longstanding governance documents that outline operating procedures, they are missing key elements. These include elements such as defined roles and responsibilities in handling student misbehavior as well as established practices for promoting communication and collaboration between IPS PD and school administration and staff.
  • Survey findings revealed there were varying levels of collaboration among IPS PD and staff. Overall, 88% of IPS PD agreed they collaborated effectively with school staff, while only 61% of school staff agreed they collaborated effectively with IPS PD.
  • A significant deterrent to collaboration is the ambiguity surrounding roles and responsibilities in addressing student misbehavior. As a result, IPS PD and staff are not able to effectively address these issues. Other challenges include a lack of opportunities for intentional engagement between school staff and IPS PD, such as scheduled meeting times.
  • Both IPS PD and school staff expressed a need for additional training to help IPS PD effectively fulfill their roles and responsibilities and meet the needs of students. These training sessions should include topics such as trauma-informed care, social-emotional learning, child and adolescent development, working with students with disabilities, and more.
  • While the number of students arrested declined during the past four years, racial disparities persist. Black students were arrested at a higher rate and were seven times more likely to be arrested than white students between 2016 and 2020.

IPS high school arrests by race/ethnicity (2019–2020)

70%Black students (51% of IPS HS enrollment)

12%White students (12% of IPS HS enrollment)

4%Hispanic/Latinx students (32% of IPS HS enrollment)

14%Other race/ethnicity (5% of IPS HS enrollment)