In a groundbreaking move, Indiana has become one of the first states to enact a law that allows arrests to be made if individuals stand within 25 feet of an ongoing police investigation. House Enrolled Act 1186 establishes a buffer zone that grants law enforcement officers the necessary space to carry out their duties. Failure to comply with the mandated distance can result in a Class C misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
State Representative Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville), the driving force behind the legislation, highlighted the escalating violence in encounters involving individuals unrelated to the situation at hand as a crucial factor in its creation. McNamara emphasized the law’s significance in safeguarding both law enforcement officers and citizens alike.
Chief Kyle Prewitt of the Plainfield Police Department voiced his support for the measure, citing its positive impact on officer safety and the well-being of the community. Prewitt praised the legislation as a necessary step forward.
While the law grants officers discretion in its application, law enforcement officials have indicated that it will not be universally applicable in every situation. Prosecutors such as Lance Hamner from Johnson County acknowledged that most individuals are cooperative and maintain a respectful distance from police operations. However, instances do arise where non-compliance or interference occurs.
Nevertheless, the law has garnered criticism from Democrats and various advocacy groups. Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) expressed concerns about potential abuse by law enforcement, suggesting that the law could be exploited despite its purported noble intent.
The ACLU of Indiana is currently reviewing the legislation, contending that it limits the public’s ability to hold police accountable. On their official website, the organization opposes the law, arguing that it infringes upon First Amendment protections and obstructs citizens from observing and recording police interactions within their communities.
Law enforcement representatives maintain that the law does not impede transparency. Chief Prewitt emphasized the ability to capture video and audio from a distance greater than 25 feet, underscoring the preservation of citizen recording capabilities.
The amendment received approval from the Indiana House of Representatives with a 75-20 vote in March. The law will take effect on July 1, prompting ongoing discussions and debates regarding its implications for civil liberties and police-community relations.