Monroe County sheriff’s deputies to get regular training updates with Lexipol policy management program

Sometime before December, the 44 sworn officers under the Monroe County sheriff will start taking monthly training on policies they’re supposed to follow.

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Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on 7th Street, looking north. Image links to Google Street View from which it is taken.

They’ll also get regular testing on the policies, according to Monroe County sheriff Brad Swain.

On Wednesday morning, county sheriff Brad Swain described the training and policy management program to county commissioners this way: “It will be as much a part of their work week as making sure their car is safe and all their equipment is good.”

The range of policies to be reviewed on a routine basis include those from 21st Century Policing  and #8CANTWAIT, Swain told commissioners.

The #8CANTWAIT policies require that law enforcement agencies: ban chokeholds; require de-escalation; require warning before shooting; require exhaustion of all alternatives before shooting; impose a duty to intervene; ban shooting at moving vehicles; require use of force continuum; require comprehensive reporting.

At their regular Wednesday meeting, the three county commissioners gave their unanimous support for the one-time “implementation fee” of $9,425 for the Lexipol system, that will, according to Swain, put the policies “all at their fingertips, their phone apps, as well as their within their car.” Continue reading “Monroe County sheriff’s deputies to get regular training updates with Lexipol policy management program”

On split vote, public safety income tax committee recommends: No “off-the-top” allocations this year for rural fire departments

A committee of the Monroe County tax council voted Tuesday morning against a recommendation to allocate $353,700 of public safety income tax money to support requests made by four rural fire departments in the county.

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Screenshot of the Aug. 4 meeting of the PS-LIT committee of the local income tax council of Monroe County. It was conducted on the Zoom video conferencing platform.

The potential direct allocation of funds to the fire departments would have made up about 4.5 percent of the $7.8 million that the committee was using as a conservative estimate for the total amount it could allocate for 2021.

The distribution of local income tax revenues for 2021 is based on 2019 income tax filings, which have been delayed because of relaxed deadlines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vote on the seven-member PS-LIT (public safety local income tax) committee was 2–5 for the direct allocation of the funds to the Monroe County Fire Protection District, and fire departments serving Richland, Bean Blossom, and Benton townships.

The tally flipped to 5–2 for the committee’s vote on its recommended allocations for 2021 public safety income tax revenue.

The dispatch center—which is a public safety answering point (PSAP)—is recommended to receive its requested budget of $2,247,490.

The remaining amount is recommended to be divided, through a property-tax-footprint-based formula, among Bloomington, Monroe County, Ellettsville and Stinesville. In round numbers, that works out to about $2.8 million for Bloomington, $2.5 million for Monroe County government, $165,000 for Ellettsville and $1,100 for Stinesville. Continue reading “On split vote, public safety income tax committee recommends: No “off-the-top” allocations this year for rural fire departments”

Not a jail or a hospital: Stride Coalition’s crisis diversion center gets ribbon cut ahead of Aug. 3 opening

On Monday afternoon, leaders of several local organizations gathered on the lower level of Monroe County’s Morton Street Parking garage for a crisis diversion center ribbon cutting.

The space was originally designed as a place for inmates of the county jail—a place they could be housed in case the jail needed to be evacuated. The jail is just across the alley to the west.

Now it’s been remodeled as a place where people who are in trouble can be taken by law enforcement officers, instead of the jail. Or a hospital.

With the ribbon now cut, the Stride Coalition’s crisis diversion center is expected to be fully staffed and ready to open by Aug. 3, according to Linda Grove-Paul, vice president of adult and family services at Centerstone, the lead organization for the Stride facility. Continue reading “Not a jail or a hospital: Stride Coalition’s crisis diversion center gets ribbon cut ahead of Aug. 3 opening”

Monroe County COVID-19 cases continue to surge, hospital numbers up, zero deaths for nearly a month

Sunday’s noon update of the State of Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard showed no additional COVID-19 deaths in Monroe County. That’s two days shy of a month since the county’s last COVID-19 death was recorded, on June 21.

But the dashboard showed that a recent surge in positive cases continues unabated. More than two dozen cases each day were logged on Friday and Saturday.

The previous high had been 18 cases. That brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Monroe County to 472.

Last week, some uncertainty about future testing capacity was raised by state and local officials. Continue reading “Monroe County COVID-19 cases continue to surge, hospital numbers up, zero deaths for nearly a month”

COVID-19 Update: Mask order now in effect for Monroe County; other measures take effect on July 23 in Bloomington, later elsewhere

A new health order issued Friday afternoon requires Monroe County residents to wear face coverings when they’re not at home—with several caveats.

The order took effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, a few hours after it was issued by Monroe County health officer Thomas Sharp. It will stay in effect until it’s rescinded, according to the order.

The order comes as numbers of confirmed positive cases continue to rise in the county, and hospitalizations are starting to edge upward as well. The last death in Monroe County due to COVID-19 came three and a half weeks ago, on June 21. Continue reading “COVID-19 Update: Mask order now in effect for Monroe County; other measures take effect on July 23 in Bloomington, later elsewhere”

Monroe County prosecutor now “actively reviewing” evidence in July 4 Lake Monroe case

Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant has now received the investigative reports from Indiana Department of Natural resources about a case described in a press release late Wednesday afternoon as “an incident that took place in the forest near Lake Monroe on July 4, 2020.”

2020-07-15 Monroe County prosecutor presser

Ten days earlier, Bloomington activist Vauhxx Booker had described himself in a Facebook post as “almost the victim of an attempted lynching.”

On Monday this week, David Hennessy, an attorney who represents Sean Purdy and Caroline McCord, two of the people who were involved in the incident, and whom Booker is accusing, gave a press conference denying Booker’s version of events.

There’s no word on when the prosecutor’s office might make a decision on possible charges. Continue reading “Monroe County prosecutor now “actively reviewing” evidence in July 4 Lake Monroe case”

Monroe County prosecutor on assault of Vauhxx Booker: DNR investigation of July 4 case is not yet complete

On Saturday, July 4, at Lake Monroe, Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker was assaulted by a group of white men in a case Booker has described as an “attempted lynching.”

In a press release issued a little before 5 p.m. on Thursday, the Monroe County prosecutor’s office gave a status update: No charges have been filed because the investigation is not yet complete.

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Facebook videos of an incident described by the man being held down in the left frame as an “attempted lynching.” Image links to Facebook post.

The press release, which came from prosector Erika Oliphant, indicates that no charges have yet been filed, because the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division (IDNR Law Enforcement), has not completed its investigation and turned over all its evidence to the prosecutor.

The statement says, “At this time, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office cannot speculate as to charges. IDNR Law Enforcement will forward their investigative report to the Prosecutor’s Office immediately upon completion, at which time it will be expeditiously reviewed.”

About the investigation, the press release says, “Since the initial response, IDNR Law Enforcement has been working diligently to complete the investigation.” Continue reading “Monroe County prosecutor on assault of Vauhxx Booker: DNR investigation of July 4 case is not yet complete”

Monroe County prosecutor to weigh possible charges in case described as “attempted lynching” by target of assault

According to deputy prosecutor Jeff Kehr, the Monroe County prosecutor’s office will be reviewing reports from the Indiana Conservation Officers (ICO) about an “attempted lynching” at Lake Monroe on July 4. The ICO is law enforcement division of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

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Facebook videos of an incident described by the man being held down in the left frame as an “attempted lynching.” Image links to Facebook post.

The ICO will be providing the prosecutor’s office with their investigative reports, witness statements, and digital evidence, according to Kehr. “We will thoroughly review all of the information presented to us and decide what charges are appropriate,” Kehr’s statement said.

On Sunday, Vauhxx Booker, who is an activist and a member of Monroe County’s human rights commission, posted to Facebook a video showing parts of the incident, including footage of him being held down against a tree trunk.

Booker described part of the episode this way: “I tussled with the two and another one joined in, then two more. The five were able to easily overwhelm me and got me to the ground and dragged me pinning my body against a tree as they began pounding on my head and ripped off some of my hair, with several of them still on top of my body holding me down.”

Booker stated in his Facebook post that one of his assailants told his comrades several times to “get a noose.”

Several people, among them elected officials, wrote in Facebook comments that they will be contacting Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant about the incident.

Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, and city clerk, Nicole Bolden issued a joint statement Monday morning about the Lake Monroe incident and a separate one in Bloomington that took place the day before. About the two incidents, their statement said, “They require that we come together as a whole, and recognize that racism damages all of us, not just our residents of color. We deserve better, and we must make it happen.” Continue reading “Monroe County prosecutor to weigh possible charges in case described as “attempted lynching” by target of assault”

COVID-19 Update: Monroe County issues separate order; mayor announces positive antibodies; mask mandate mulled; more tests, confirmed cases

On Thursday, Monroe County’s health officer issued a separate COVID-19 order that is slightly more restrictive than the statewide directive.

The local order starts July 4.

The local health order includes a requirement that businesses post signs encouraging their patrons to wear masks, but does not mandate the wearing of masks.

Local officials are mulling the possibility of following the lead of some other Indiana jurisdictions—St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marion counties—by imposing a requirement that masks be worn when residents are in public. But their preference is to get voluntary compliance.

At their regular weekly press conference on Thursday, pushed up a day due to the July 4 holiday, local officials praised Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s decision the previous day to pause his Back on Track plan. Holcomb issued a 4.5 version, instead of adopting Back on Track 5.0.

The day before that, Holcomb had extended to July 31 a previous order halting evictions due to non-payment of rent. As a part of the same extended order, utility shutoffs were suspended until Aug. 14.

The new local health order was issued on the same day when Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. That’s likely due to having been infected back in April, despite having twice tested negative back then.

Increased testing in Monroe County—from a 7-day rolling average of around 100 a day in the first part of June, to closer to 150 a day in the second half of the month—has come with the highest number of positive cases since the pandemic started.

The current 7-day rolling average is around 6 new confirmed cases a day after staying under 2 from late April to mid-June. The rate of positive tests has nudged upward, but not in a dramatic way. Continue reading “COVID-19 Update: Monroe County issues separate order; mayor announces positive antibodies; mask mandate mulled; more tests, confirmed cases”

Monroe County maxes out its $400K of COVID-19 relief using food and beverage tax money

At its regular meeting on Wednesday morning, the three-member board of Monroe County commissioners approved the 10th and probably final round of grants as part of its program to give relief to businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That brought the total amount awarded by the county to right around $400,000, distributed to over 30 different entities involved in tourism-related enterprises.

The total amount of tax proceeds recommended by the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) for the purpose COVID-19 relief by the county was $400,000.

One of the awards given by commissioners on Wednesday morning was a $10,000 loan to a previous grant recipient, Trailhead Enterprises. The money, which will pay for an air-conditioning unit, is supposed be paid back by Aug. 1, according to county attorney Margie Rice.

The other two grant awards on Wednesday went to Rising Star Gymnastics for $25,000 and The WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology for $65,000.

Continue reading “Monroe County maxes out its $400K of COVID-19 relief using food and beverage tax money”