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Sunday, June 20, 2021

I’m Just Sayin’: We need to pay attention to this statewide law enforcement board

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We’re going to talk about Newfields, but first we need to figure out what the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy Training (ILEAT) board is going to try to do with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s use of force policy.

The ILEAT consists of one female judge from Morgan County and IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, and the rest are white males. The governor had promised to diversify this board but as of now we haven’t seen much action. Perhaps it’s in the works. We will be paying attention.

ILEAT is challenging IMPD’s “proportionality” standard for use of force, no doubt thinking their objections have nothing to do with race, while conveniently ignoring the history and current reality of disproportionate use of force against Black people in Indianapolis and Indiana.

Being culturally blind is dangerous for any institution.

Here’s the deal.

I think you tell IMPD when they are wrong but stand with them when they are right. At this particular moment, they are fighting to maintain their ability to have both a reasonable and proportional standard when using force in interactions with the public that require a law enforcement objective. IMPD use of force is disproportionate in our community, and IMPD leadership has arrived at a reasonableness and proportionality standard to address this problem.

While officers always maintain the right to defend themselves if their life is threatened, in non-life-threatening situations the reasonableness and proportionality standard matters. It’s the difference between an officer being able to use force because it makes sense to other officers versus ensuring that an officer uses the minimal level of force to achieve an objective like making an arrest.

The reasonable standard is controlled by Graham v. Connor, which is based on how an officer would react in a situation without using hindsight. It basically means if another officer placed in a similar situation would take the same actions — without the advantage of hindsight — those actions would be deemed “reasonable.”

This is an incredibly broad standard.

IMPD, in trying to address use of force challenges, added “proportionality,” which means that when using force, additional contextual factors are included and the minimal amount of force is required given the circumstances and objectives.

ILEAT has a problem with proportional use of force. Their meetings are public. They will have a special session on IMPD’s use of force policy. We need to be there.

Now to Newfields.

What’s probably most disappointing is the realization that our community had such low expectations for our city’s art museum. From removing the IndyGo bus stop to charging a $18 to visit the museum, which happens to be more than what the median hourly rate for Black families in this city, the art museum leadership hasn’t exactly endeared itself to the Black community.

Folks have already noted the problems, including an underwhelming attention to Black artists during Black History Month. (On a recent visit I asked to see the Black art and they literally took me to a painting of a pimp.)

So, given the consensus that the current Newfields wanted to maintain its “traditional, core, white art audience,” even after both the president and the human relations lead were challenged by the staff on this verbiage, let’s talk about the “new” Newfields.

The “new” Newfields board of trustees and board of governors will reflect the diversity of a community that is approaching approximately 46% Black, Latins, Asian, Native American and bi-racial. (I hate the terms BIPOC and people of color. People need to say what they mean.)

They also won’t have a problem with having both Black art intermingled with other non-Black artists and having a Black artist section — because having a Black art section isn’t a “ghetto”; its empowering and an affirmation of these artists as contributing to a people’s intellectual and cultural development under systemic racism. But I digress.

The “new” Newfields won’t charge $18 for a visit.

The “new” Newfields will also put the bus stop back.

The “new” Newfields likely will have different leadership and a new contractor for executive searches.

The “new” Newfields will actually be responsive to various cultural heritage months and the staff, and volunteers will know exactly how to help people find culturally specific art when asked by the public.

The “new” Newfields will also help the general public (everybody) learn about artists of different races by showcasing their work and finding ways to help us understand whose work we are looking at. (Hint: Find a way to help the general public know that artists like Thornton Dial is Black when displaying his work.)

The current Newfields said what it meant. Well, let’s get to the business of the “new” Newfields because until such time I won’t be visiting the white power institution that is the current Newfields.

Marshawn Wolley is president and CEO of Black Onyx Management Inc. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com.

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