The problem with asking for direct command and control of the police department is eventually you have to take responsibility. That’s what happened to the Ballard administration last week as they dealt with twin crime crises.
After a spurt of four homicides in two days, Mayor Greg Ballard convened a hastily called press conference the day before the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Though only half of recent homicides involved Black victims, the mayor’s minions tried to play this as an African-American community problem by having the mayor, Public Safety Director Scott Newman and Metro Police Chief Michael Spears surrounded by Ballard’s Black Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams and a group of Black pastors representing the Peace in the Streets efforts, as well as some factions of Concerned Clergy.
The mayor tried to focus his news conference on preventing homicides during the holiday and by extension subliminally encourage a peaceful Black Expo weekend. But the mayor’s safe streets PR effort fizzled badly because of the bigger story of police gone bad.
The arrest of nine Metro Police officers, including four Black officers, for alleged wrongdoing such as consorting with drug dealers and helping one’s wife with her prostitution business had the mainstream media in a lather.
Holding late afternoon press conferences on the eve of a holiday weekend is only done when folks have something they don’t want the media to focus on. Obviously the Ballard brood wanted the media to focus on civilian, not police misbehavior. But that didn’t happen.
The Indianapolis Star completely ignored the press conference. Channels 6 and 13 focused their stories on what the mayor was doing to keep police from going bad in the future. Channel 8 tried to balance between focusing on police accountability while giving the Mayor’s peace message a little plug.
Even though the Concerned Clergy, a group involved in taking activist positions regarding the Black community, was involved in the news conference, Ballard’s PR mavens didn’t make personal contact with the city’s Black media to alert them of the news conference’s importance. As a result, Black media, like the Star, was a no show.
If Mayor Ballard and his brain trust thought a press conference would help encourage our Black community to cooperate in the fight against crime, then this mayor and his advisors are truly living in their own dreamy, delusional world.
Unlike other Indianapolis mayors, Mayor Ballard has no standing in America’s 16th largest African-American community.
It’s bad enough that in his first six months Mayor Ballard has held the fewest news conferences of any mayor in their first six months in the history of UniGov. Unlike his predecessors, Ballard reveals the least about his public schedule. Local media have scanty, sketchy information of this mayor’s public appearances and events.
And this mayor’s become virtually incommunicado with Indianapolis’ quarter million African-American community with one interview with the city’s major Black newspaper and radio station in six months.
It’s worse when the mayor attends neighborhood organization meetings in Black neighborhoods. He stays for just a few minutes taking no direct questions from citizens, just written, screened in advance questions.
Mayors Lugar, Hudnut, Goldsmith and Peterson never did that at neighborhood meetings. Neither do other area mayors. Even the imperial mayor of Carmel talks to his citizens directly. But Ballard isn’t the only one suffering from a credibility crisis among African-Americans. The credibility of some Black ministers has suffered in the past six months.
In years past, scores of ministers would have spoken out if a police officer, accused of brutality against a Black, received insufficient punishment. But only one, Rev. David Greene of Second Baptist Church, spoke out about the egregious non-punishment of the cop who kicked a Black young man in full video view during last year’s Black Expo.
The past two summers, scores of Black ministers were in full cry speaking out forcefully about the city’s problems and offering solutions that the city’s power structure, including the business community and foundations rudely dismissed. The problems still remain, capped now by concerns about police misconduct, but the current silence from the Black ministerial community is deafening and disturbing.
That silence has dealt a serious blow, among the mass of our community, to Black ministerial credibility on issues of importance.
There’s now a credibility gap when our community sees its ministers who we expect to speak truth to power standing approvingly next to a mayor who’s demonstrated since taking office that he has no respect for our community’s institutions.
As Black Expo opens, I’ll be watching closely this mayor’s behavior and demeanor at Expo — what he says, does, what events he attends and doesn’t attend — and compare that with past mayors.
What I’m hearing in the streets
While local Republicans beat the bushes looking for someone to run against him, Congressman Andre Carson has been quietly working. He’s secured $6.5 million in funding for Indianapolis, including $5.3 million for the Indianapolis North Flood Control Project and hundreds of thousands for re-entry programs, improved technology for police and job training and small business development efforts.
Meanwhile, at least two names have surfaced as possible opponents, Republican Hispanic activist Gabrielle Campo and former City-County Councilman and Indy Parks official Ray Irvin.
For the second year in a row, Just Tellin’ It was honored by the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) with second place in the Best Column competition among the nation’s 200 Black newspapers.
While honored and humbled by this twice in a row recognition, I’m even prouder of my colleagues at your Indianapolis Recorder as this newspaper was selected as Best (first place) in the nation in Layout and Design in the annual NNPA competition.
Your Recorder also received second place honors for Best Religion Page and third place for the newspaper’s Black History Month special section.
Coupled with two first place, two second place and two third place honors in Indiana’s Society of Professional Journalists competition, this newspaper, under Publisher/President Carolene Mays and Vice President/Editor Shannon Williams continues to make your Indianapolis Recorder America’s best.
See ‘ya next week at Black Expo.
Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915 or by e-mail at ACBROWN@AOL.COM.