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Friday, July 19, 2024

More trouble and shame for public safety and its leader – Mayor Ballard

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Another outrage. Another black eye. Another reason for Indianapolis to question the leadership, training and value system of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

The case of IMPD officer David Brisard, by all accounts a decent, brave, honorable officer, has the entire city buzzing, including many who’re usually supportive of the folks in blue.

Brisard was involved in a late morning accident Aug. 6, when he plowed into three motorcyclists stopped at at 56th and Brendon Way, killing one and injuring two, one critically. After a couple of hours, Brisard got the legally required blood test which showed his blood alcohol level was 0.19 – 238 percent of Indiana’s legal limit of 0.08.

Many are angry that the blood test wasn’t taken sooner. Others were incredulous that top police brass and individual officers couldn’t detect Brisard’s impairment in the minutes after the accident.

After receiving the blood test results, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi had no choice but to charge Brisard with seven felonies, including vehicular homicide.

The fatal accident and the appearance of a police cover-up and/or malfeasance have outraged a new group of Indianapolis residents – bikers.

Bikers share many similarities with African Americans: hard working, patriotic and stereotyped by those outside their community.

The Brisard case has bikers outraged. And that’s one group in a community you don’t want to tick off.

Mayor Greg Ballard, his Department of Public Safety director and his police chief were blasted by local media over the Brisard case. During a press conference and in live appearances on mainstream media (again, ignoring Black media) Ballard was off balance, off message and oft putting in his comments on the case.

But our Black community should take note of Ballard’s response in one respect. In this case of police misconduct, he responded immediately with a statement of concern, compassion and a desire for the investigation and the system to work.

Something he didn’t do until 40 days after the Brandon Johnson incident.

The Brisard case overshadowed the week’s other public safety developments. A new IMPD recruit class of 65 officers was sworn in. Another Ballard administration recruit class with a paucity of African-Americans. Just seven, six Black males and a lone Black female; 10.8 percent of the class. This in a city where the Black population is estimated at 26.8 percent, where the 2008 American Community Survey estimates the employed workforce is 23.7 percent Black.

Ever since Ballard proclaimed his desire not to have any system in place to recruit and promote African-American police and firefighters, hiring a handful of Black police recruits has been the mayor’s policy. Worse, no Black firefighters have been hired under this mayor because of the mergers with township fire departments.

Oh, and whatever happened to that task force co-chaired by Joe Slash and Rev. Richard Willoughby that was supposed to develop a plan to increase diversity in the police and fire departments? Has that group disappeared into the twilight zone?

Also, last week, Public Safety Director Frank Straub imported an outsider, a veteran African-American cop from Baltimore, Richard “Rick” Hite, to handle training and diversity issues.

Hite, a Gary native who retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel, becomes the new deputy public safety director for training and strategic initiatives. He has his work cut out for him fighting an entrenched and embattled police union, police suspicious of their outsider public safety director, a Black community deeply angry over recent IMPD screw-ups, and now upset bikers.

Finally, in creating an “advisory committee” to advise him and the department on public safety issues, Public Safety Director Straub messed up big time. Opponents of the mayor were angry that the committee not only included me, but worse, in some opponents’ eyes, it included WRTV (Channel 6) commentator Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, a fervent Ballard defender.

Straub demonstrated political insensitivity when his committee included two Republican City-County Council members, but no Democrats were included or even asked to serve – thus angering council Democrats and guaranteeing they’ll be hostile to his budget requests.

I was asked to serve on the committee and I accepted because Straub and his minions need to hear the feedback I get from our community about public safety.

Straub told the Indianapolis Star,“This is me getting together with friends to get advice,” Friends? I’ve met Straub three times for interviews and once the night of the Expo mess. That’s not what I consider friendship.

Anyway, critics who think my serving on a group giving advice compromises my criticisms of the mayor, his administration or his minions, in print or broadcast, should clip this column as a benchmark.

What I’m hearing

in the streets

For the past month, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Brad Ellsworth has been running TV ads. Republicans cited a Rasmussen poll which shows their candidate, Dan Coats, still leads Ellsworth 50 percent to 29 percent with 14 percent undecided. Among the undecided are African-Americans, who still haven’t warmed to the Evansville congressman.

The lack of Black enthusiasm for Ellsworth reflects the continued ennui among Blacks as we approach the final 60 days of the campaign. For Democrats to hold their own and to hold gains in Marion County offices, Democrats, including the DNC and the vestiges of the Obama campaign, need to step up their efforts, so far invisible, to generate enthusiasm in our community.

The Ballard administration brags they’re doing more business than ever with minority-owned businesses. But that supposed increase hasn’t translated into more jobs. With Black unemployment at record levels, scores of road and infrastructure projects are employing few Blacks.

This summer I’ve driven to work on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, where a major resurfacing and sidewalk project is going on. Every worker I’ve seen has been white!

It’s just as bad on that northwest side massive Crooked Creek sewer rehab project tearing up streets in majority-Black middle class neighborhoods. On one street I know, over a 49-work day period, the only Black workers seen were on the first two days of the project, and the final day when two Black-owned trucking companies were used. The rest of the time all the employees, contractors and truckers were white.

Is that Mayor Ballard’s legacy, spending millions in Black neighborhoods to employ only whites?

See ‘ya next week!

You can e-mail comments to Amos Brown III at acbrown@aol.com.

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