INDIANAPOLIS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit Wednesday against members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, for removing the personal property of five community members residing under an infrequently traveled railroad overpass.
On Monday, December 17, two on-duty IMPD officers, with no prior notice and without cause, removed five individuals’ properties and destroyed the possessions without affording them an opportunity to reclaim their property. Officers collected and destroyed, not only clothing, bedding and tents, but plaintiffs’ prescription medication as well.
“The plaintiffs had not abandoned their property, and there was no legal justification for officers to seize and destroy their personal property,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana Legal Director. “Officers made no attempt to offer the plaintiffs an opportunity to reclaim their property. All belongings were thrown away.”
One of the plaintiffs, Mr. Allen Hostetler was asleep in his tent when the officers arrived and dragged him from his tent by the ankles. He was told that he had five minutes to grab whatever property he could and the rest would be removed. After attempting to secure his property, he made an effort to gather property from his neighbors’ tents as well, but was informed he could only take his property.
The ACLU of Indiana, claims that the seizure of plaintiffs’ possessions without cause, notice, and an opportunity to reclaim them violated both the Fourth Amendment and the procedural due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Additionally, plaintiff Allen Hostetler was unreasonably seized with excessive force, also in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
“Depriving these community members of what little property they have lacks compassion and will not solve public safety concerns,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU of Indiana. “To address concerns regarding homelessness in Indianapolis, elected officials should look into housing alternatives rather than further displacing an already destitute community.”