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‘Black lives matter’: Holcomb sets out for racial reckoning in Indiana

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Body cameras for state police, a new cabinet position for equity and inclusion in state government, a portal for state-level diversity statistics.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, announced a series of strategies Aug. 18 to improve Indiana’s record on racial equity.

“Black lives matter, and so do Black livelihoods,” he said, crediting Martin University President Sean Huddleston for the “Black livelihoods” addendum.

Every frontline Indiana State Police trooper will have a body camera by the spring of 2021, Holcomb said. That would mean the two largest law enforcement agencies in the state — Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the state police — would have body cameras by next year.

Holcomb said a third party will conduct a top-down review of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy — which is where almost all Indiana police are trained — to modernize the training and make any necessary changes to use of force, de-escalation and implicit bias training.

Holcomb will add a cabinet position for a chief equity, inclusion and opportunity officer to focus on eliminating barriers in state government. That includes setting a goal for Indiana to have the lowest infant mortality rate among Midwest states by 2024.

Indiana is currently one of the worst states in the country for infant mortality, and the rate for Black babies was almost three times that of white babies in 2017, according to data from the Indiana State Department of Health.

Holcomb said he has directed the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and Department of Workforce Development to work together to adjust policies and programs that can create more opportunities for “people of color.”

Holcomb also said the state’s next secretary of education — a position appointed by the governor — must recruit more minority teachers. About 93% of K-12 teachers in Indiana are white, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education, and about 4% are Black or African American.

A data portal will show were Indiana stands in numerous categories when it comes to racial equity, Holcomb said. It will include everything from graduation rates to foster care placement to incarceration and recidivism.

“We’ll put our cards on the table face up,” he said.

Holcomb’s announcements came a day after Dr. Woody Myers, Holcomb’s Democratic challenger in the November gubernatorial election, released a three-minute ad that was in part about his experiences with racism as a Black man.

Holcomb said he can’t put himself in a Black person’s shoes or fully appreciate the “everyday indignities and slights,” but he appealed to the U.S. Constitution’s commitment to the ideal that everyone is “created equal,” although both blatant and subtle racism have been steady features in the country’s — and state’s — history.

“We have an opportunity to acknowledge those past wrongs, learn from our history and admit where we come short in our ideals,” he said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announces new initiatives to help improve racial equity in Indiana on Aug. 18.

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