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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Taking ‘the talk’ public

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Adey Adenrele was a college student back home in Michigan for the summer, just looking to make money and build his resume before heading back to New York for the fall semester. He was hired by a nonprofit organization and subsequently dropped off in a suburban neighborhood in a town outside of Ann Arbor for door-to-door outreach. Adenrele thought it would be a calm and productive summer.

“They drop us off one day, doing the door-to-door thing, and a police officer rolls up and asks me what I’m doing,” Adenrele said. “I had a bag, with the entity name on it, and I explained it to him. I was thinking, this can’t be anything. I’m out here just trying to save the Great Lakes.” 

What began as an officer’s inquiry turned into a citation for soliciting without a license, which was ultimately dismissed entirely, albeit with much difficulty. 

“I naively asked the officer, ‘Is this for me, or for the nonprofit?’” Adenrele said, regarding the citation. “No, this is for you.”

Adenrele, now an attorney at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, and his friend and colleague Aaron Williamson, an attorney at Cohen and Malad LLP, have set out to inform people of their rights if they find themselves in similar and more serious situations. This desired objective led them, in partnership with the Indiana State Bar Association Diversity Committee, to create the Police Interaction and Accountability Community Forum, to take place Oct. 5 from 6–8 p.m. at the Indianapolis Urban League.

“In part, we’re hoping that this event gives people some perspective on where you can voice your concerns and how you can make an effective change,” Williamson said.  

Among the panelists will be Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Bryan Roach, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, attorney Jan Mensz from the ACLU of Indiana, defense attorney Corey L. Scott and Lori White, executive director of the Citizens Complaint Board. The forum will be a lecture format with introductory comments from the panelists followed by an in-depth panel discussion and opportunities at the end for an audience question-and-answer session.

“You have an officer just trying to do his job for the most part, but some people go overboard, some people abuse their authority, and you see that in a number of cases,” Williamson said. “You have that, and then you have the citizen, ‘Hey, I’m just doing my job, just out here trying to live, trying to drive, walk around on the street, be in my home, what rights do I have?’ We’re really trying to have that conversation from both perspectives.”

Adenrele added, “You always hear about Black kids getting ‘the talk.’ I certainly had that. I did not heed it very well. I do make sure to tell police officers that, ‘Hey, I’m pulling out my wallet,’ just to make sure everything is clear so there are no miscommunications, but there have been other times where I’ll be like, ‘Look, I’m in a rush, just give me my ticket, please.’ That story is the main thing that scared me.”

While he admittedly had difficulty taking “the talk” to heart, Adenrele believes that while it’s always important to be properly informed, it’s especially so given the many fatalities and perceived overboard reactions from some police officers toward the African-American community throughout the U.S. in recent years. 

“I think it’s in the back of a lot of people’s minds when they have interactions with police officers, and I’m sure it’s in the back of police officers’ minds,” Adenrele said. “So an event like this is crucial so that we can bring it to the front of our minds, to have an open dialogue.”

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