51.8 F
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

‘We have the capacity to lead’: Black leaders feel excluded from the city’s public safety partnership

More by this author

Police have a legitimacy problem to address first

Lauryn Smith sat on the sidewalk during a sit-in on Indiana Avenue earlier in September and thought about whether it’s actually possible for police...

City leaders, community members disagree on demilitarization

When protesters came face to face with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officers downtown May 30, the anger and confusion from the crowd was...

IU School of Medicine to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trial

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine will be looking for volunteers to receive a two-round COVID-19 vaccination when the trial resumes in...

Substance use disorder stigma: the ‘scarlet letter’

They say when white folks catch a cold, Black folks get pneumonia. The saying usually applies to economic disparities, but what about when white...

Local Black leaders say they were caught off guard and felt disrespected when Mayor Hogsett announced a new public safety partnership with the Criminal Justice Lab at New York University’s School of Law earlier this month.

That’s because the city didn’t consult them beforehand, leaving the impression that the mayor’s office would rather turn to an outsider to learn how to address the systemic issues that plague Black Indianapolis.

“We have the capacity to lead, and for whatever reason, he’s not interested in seeking out community response before he makes an announcement on how he’s going to spend money or how he’s going to study us,” Indy10 Black Lives Matter organizer Jessica Louise said of Hogsett.

Louise said this is another example of why there is distrust between the community and city.

A group of Black leaders had a phone call with Tim Moriarty, special counsel to the mayor, and Deputy Mayor David Hampton to discuss their concerns within a few days of the announcement.

Toby Miller, director of the Race and Cultural Relations Leadership Network, was on the call and described it as a “frank, candid, brutal, honest” conversation about the mayor’s office not consulting Black leaders before getting involved in a partnership to address public safety.

Black leaders on the call laid out a list of demands, according to Miller, which included embracing a Black agenda developed in 2019, reviewing the civilian complaint process and reestablishing the Indianapolis Commission on the Social Status of Black Males.

The city-county council and Hogsett recently announced a proposal to reestablish the commission, which will identify factors such as education and employment that act as barriers for Black males.

Marshawn Wolley, policy director for the African American Coalition of Indianapolis, wrote in a recent Recorder column the partnership was “met with a clear, unmistakable rejection” by Black leaders.

Wolley, who helped spearhead the effort to establish a Black agenda last year, said in an interview city officials have local answers waiting for them.

“In order for the city to have credibility, they need to do the things the Black community has asked them to do first,” he said.

Among those requests is a use-of-force board, which Hogsett and former Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Bryan Roach said they could create following the police shooting of Aaron Bailey in 2017. (There is currently a proposed use-of-force board, but some Black leaders say it doesn’t include enough civilian participation.

Ashley Gurvitz, CEO of the Alliance for Northeast Unification, said the announcement was “kind of a shock” but that she does think the city chose a good partner.

“My ultimate goal is to see that, whether it was intentional or not, that we’re all in alignment now,” she said. “We can’t go another day with the chaos that’s happening right in our own backyard.”

None of the Black leaders the Recorder interviewed for this article said the city consulted them prior to announcing the partnership.

Taylor Schaffer, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said the office was in contact with Black community leaders and organizers “throughout the past several weeks” but didn’t directly answer questions about if those conversations specifically included the partnership.

Schaffer said members and leaders with the city-county council were briefed before the announcement.

City-county council President Vop Osili did not respond to an interview request.

Leroy Robinson, chair of the city-county council’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, also didn’t respond to an interview request but tweeted at Hogsett: “Shouldn’t the ‘partnership’ be with our ‘local’ activists, community organizers & grassroots leaders? (Asking for a friend.)”

Part of the city’s partnership with NYU includes bringing together “stakeholders” from public health agencies — including community members, educators and law enforcement — to create a new definition of public safety and justice.

But Black people in Indianapolis say they’ve seen enough of these sorts of task forces and committees.

“We done had enough studies,” said Derris Ross, founder of The Ross Foundation, which serves the east side around 42nd Street and Post Road.

Ross said it doesn’t matter that Ann Milgram, who led the disbanding of the police department in Camden, New Jersey, in 2012, is founding director of the Criminal Justice Lab and part of the partnership.

“It doesn’t matter what accolades and titles you have,” Ross said. “That will never measure up to people who are actually living in oppression.”

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

Community members discuss what should be included in a Black agenda at an October 2019 event at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest local news.

Stay connected


Related articles

Popular articles

Meet the director of equity and inclusion at Washington Township Schools

This school year, the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township school board hired Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera to fill the newly created position...

Cook Medical supplier facility coming to northeast side

A new manufacturing facility on the northeast side will bring up to 100 jobs that will average $16 an hour and include...

Ethics and professionalism in the workplace

If you look up the word ethics in the dictionary, you’ll find this definition: “rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally...

‘Make or break time’: Black business owners counting on Small Business Saturday

Sandy Crain decided to take a leap of faith about a month ago. She had been saving money from her job at...

Remembering John Jointer, a gracious athlete

Alexander Seawood remembers meeting a 12-year-old John Jointer Sr. at the Capital City Church School gym in the mid-1970s. 
Español + Translate »
Skip to content