Over the span of a month, three New Albany Police Department officers resigned and another one was suspended. But due to Indiana’s lackluster open records laws and poor transparency by city officials, we only know bits and pieces about what happened.
And that isn’t healthy in an agency where trust is paramount.
We know that NAPD Officer Adam Schneider was suspended without pay on July 16 after being charged with multiple felonies in Clark County for voyeurism. A few days later, he was charged in Floyd County with felonies alleging that he engaged in sex acts with a confidential source — failing to act when he found her to be in possession of methamphetamine — whom he had met while she was homeless.
We know that Schneider was initially placed on paid administrative leave on July 3. The same day, NAPD Officer J.T. Gardner was also placed on paid administrative leave. After hiring a lawyer, Gardner resigned and no official disciplinary action was taken against him, according to the city attorney.
We also know, based on an open records request that was returned this week, that officers Ralph Weaver and Travis Miller resigned last month after being placed on paid administrative leave. They also hired lawyers and also quit the department without facing any official disciplinary action.
In Indiana, a governing agency is only required to provide a police officer’s personnel record if a final action — suspension, demotion or termination — has been taken. But the governing agency can release that information at its discretion. The City of New Albany has yet to do so, and that begs more questions.
Were the three resignations linked to the Schneider arrest?
Why would police officers hire attorneys if they weren’t looking at disciplinary action?
Was an agreement reached allowing these officers to resign instead of being fired, demoted or suspended, which would in turn mean their files would be public record?
Are any other officers under investigation?
Schneider is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but the charges he’s facing are quite serious and disturbing. If there’s a link between what he’s accused of doing and any current or former NAPD officers, the public has a right to know. Not only do taxpayers foot the salaries of police officers, but public trust in a police force is vital.
New Albany Police leadership and the city’s administration have declined to require body cameras on officers. Now they’re refusing to tell the public what’s going on within the department that has led to three resignations and a suspension.
The NAPD has officers who bravely and honorably serve the community. Their reputations shouldn’t be affected by a lack of transparency.
And state lawmakers should solve this glaring glitch in open records laws during the next legislative session. In theory, an officer could commit a terrible offense, reach an agreement with the governing body to resign instead of facing discipline and then go on to work at another police department without the public ever knowing what happened. That’s an egregious error that should be corrected.
When Schneider was charged in July, NAPD Chief Todd Bailey issued a news release in which he said “At the NAPD, our officers are held to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct.”
Part of those standards should include being open with the public about why three officers quit and another was suspended — all within a month.