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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Relationship between race, law to be examined

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The Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee (GIPC) recently announced the creation of the Race and the Legal System Working Group to study the relationship between race and the legal system in the wake of a pandemic and civil unrest. 

The group is made up of two teams: a pro bono services team and a structural reform team. Karen Bravo, dean of Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, is the chair of the overarching working group, which oversees the two teams.

Bravo was invited to chair the group after a statement she made regarding the death of George Floyd and the importance of lawyers speaking out against racial injustice was published by the Indiana Lawyer. 

“This group came about because of these twin crises that we face,” Bravo said in an interview.

The pro bono team will work to address economic vulnerability brought about by the pandemic, including the issues stemming from the soon-to-be-lifted moratorium on evictions. 

The structural reform team, co-chaired by John Gaidoo of Cummins Inc., will examine public policy as it pertains to law enforcement. 

“The team will look into best practices, funding models done by other cities that have reimagined policing, and we’ll make recommendations to minimize and hopefully even eliminate discrimination, Gaidoo said. 

While there is no official timeline for recommendations to be made, Gaidoo said he expects it to be swift. 

“We’re not talking about a year from now,” Gaidoo said. “We’re talking about a timeframe of weeks and months. We’re using this opportunity to do thorough, thoughtful work, and the city needs an urgent response.”

Bravo said research and data collection done by both teams will pull from various sectors and fields to make informed proposals relevant to Indianapolis. 

“We’re going in with an open mind,” Bravo said. “There is a great deal of research in many disciplines, a lot of work on race and policing … so there will be a lot out there for us to pull from.”

Gaidoo emphasized that proposals from the structural reform team will help everyone in the community, including police. 

“I firmly believe that the same measures that are going to benefit the average Joe on the street are going to benefit the police officers,” Gaidoo said. “Really good common sense reforms can make the police officer’s job less stressful … and the community will have a better relationship with the police. I’m not naive, but I’m pretty convinced that if we listen and do good research, we’ll get a good, well-rounded perspective that will benefit everyone.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

Karen Bravo

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