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Friday, February 26, 2021

Great first steps for IMPD, but we’ve got a long journey ahead

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Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is making much-needed and long-sought after change to the way it operates.  

After years of efforts, the voices of those in the community are finally being heard. IMPD officers will now have body cameras on their persons and the use-of-force policy is being updated. The updates include specific language on de-escalation and less-lethal force. IMPD should be applauded for these steps toward more transparency and public accountability. 

However, these are just steps. We haven’t arrived at our destination — true systemic change in policing in Indianapolis. I recognize that’s a lofty goal, but since when has that stopped Americans? Those who arrived on these shores in search of religious freedom had a lofty goal. The Founding Fathers had a lofty goal. There are countless examples of people in this country forging ahead when all signs point to the impossible. So, I find it quite ironic that in matters of parity for Black Americans, efforts often are stalled because of the level of difficulty in achieving the goal. 

I certainly hope IMPD doesn’t become a victim of such stagnant thinking. 

I know there are those who feel this is enough and Black people should be satisfied. I know there are those who are frustrated that we aren’t satisfied after making such concessions and think we never will be satisfied because we always want more. I know there are those in IMPD who feel picked on and believe these requests come from an anti-police mentality. 

I can’t speak for all Black residents of Indianapolis, but I am not satisfied and won’t be until we achieve the goal stated previously — true systemic change in policing. I know police officers serve an important function in our society, so I don’t think abolishing police is the answer — unless someone can tell me what we replace them with. I am, however, against the current system because I’m anti-police brutality. I’m against the lack of police accountability. I’m against the lack of police transparency. It’s unfortunate that some would choose to interpret improving a system so it works well for everyone as a negative.  

We’re already on the right path. To continue down that road, we need more civilian oversight — from civilians who aren’t connected to police. Civilians on boards that review the actions of IMPD often are appointed and have current or previous ties to the department. Having people who don’t have connections to IMPD would go a long way toward improving community-police relations. It would help civilians understand the challenges police officers face and those civilians could serve as liaisons to their respective communities. For its part, IMPD could benefit from hearing points of view that differ and challenge the department to hold itself to a standard of excellence.  

In addition, it would serve those who work for IMPD well to remember they are paid by public dollars. I continue to drive this point home because it’s often forgotten when discussing police accountability — especially when it comes to Black Americans. The issue of homicides and crimes perpetrated by Black people against Black people often come up in the discussion about police brutality. That deflection may have worked in the ‘80s, but we recognize that red herring today. Regular, everyday folk aren’t held to the same standard as police officers. They don’t have a duty to serve and protect. They also don’t have the training that is supposed to make police officers better equipped to handle intense situations. And, they aren’t paid by tax dollars to uphold the law. So, it’s a moot point. 

Let’s continue to push for change, and IMPD continue to listen and make changes. It can only help make our city better. 

By the way, today would be a good day to arrest those responsible for killing Breonna Taylor.

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