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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Keeping tabs on IMPD review boards

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Contrary to what some may believe, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department isn’t autonomous or omnipotent. There are checks and balances in the form of boards in place to keep the department from running rogue. How well those checks and balances work depends on whom you ask.

However, I’m betting many of us regular folk don’t know what those boards are, what the boards do and who serves on them. That’s why this week the Recorder took a look at the boards — their function and makeup. My hope is that you will take this information and use it. Clip it or print it and hang it on your refrigerator, fold it and carry it in your purse or wallet. My point: Know about these boards. Tell your friends and family about these boards and and the duties of each board.

We often complain that our complaints aren’t being heard. I’ve learned over the years that we often complain to the wrong people. Complaining to each other about IMPD does little to change IMPD. Now, if you take those claims to those who have oversight of IMPD, that’s when you can start to affect change. 

The boards are the General Orders Committee, Civilian Police Merit Board, Citizens’ Police Complaint Board, Disciplinary Board of Captains and Vehicle Operations Review Board. The creation of the Use of Force Review Board is in the final stages of approval, and two city-county councilors would like to replace the General Orders Committee with a General Orders Board that would include civilians — the current committee is made up of appointees from the chief and Fraternal Order of Police. While some boards operate internally, citizens are able to track the actions of others. 

As we continue the conversation of what policing in Indianapolis looks like — and should look like — it’s imperative we understand the functions of these boards. While members of these board are usually appointed, we need to know who is doing the appointing and who they appoint so we know where and how to address grievances. 

We can no longer be casual observers, leaving it up to other people to address these issues. We can no longer afford to be ignorant of what’s happening in our city, right under our noses. We can no longer sit idly by, letting incidents occur and then reacting to them. The pressure we are putting on government — not just IMPD — can’t stop after a few concessions are made. We have to continue being the squeaky wheel and teach our children and grandchildren to do the same. It’s never over. We can’t be complacent ever again. 

I understand we get busy living life, just trying to survive and thrive on a daily basis. By the time we finish work and any parenting or caretaking duties, it’s time to go to bed, wake up and do it all over again. Before you know it, days, months and years have passed by. I’m not casting blame on any of us for not always being as involved as we should be. It’s hard to keep up, but we have to prioritize civic involvement.  We are the taxpayers that keep IMPD going, so we have every right to be involved. I continue and will continue to go back to this point because I think it’s forgotten. We have the right to make demands of IMPD and any other government official paid by public dollars.

For too long, Black people have been passive when we should be aggressive. Sometimes being busy with life isn’t the issue: it’s fear. We’re afraid of rocking the boat, of holding people accountable and being that squeaky wheel.

That’s what citizens are supposed to do. That’s getting into the good trouble former Congressman John Lewis often spoke about. 

I understand some on IMPD may feel attacked and like they’re not supported. It’s a tough spot to be in. I’m in an often-misunderstood profession as well so I empathize. I get tired of the media being blamed for just about everything. No one forced me into this profession. I chose it, so I take the criticism. Sometimes the critics aren’t wrong. I often wish the general public understood most journalists do their very best to be as unbiased as possible and convey the facts as we know them at the time of reporting. 

Don’t mistake my empathy for sympathy. Just as I chose this profession, lumps and all, police officers did the same. Just because criticism stings, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And if a few bad apples are making the entire force look bad — as the cliché goes — well, get rid of the bad apples. I certainly don’t let bad apples sit around and taint my good ones.

One of the lessons I hope we learn this year is we have more power than we realize. We can and will be heard, and we can no longer worry about the comfortability of others. We have every right to be fully recognized as Americans. America has shown it won’t happen until we start demanding it happen. We can start with IMPD.

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