See Recorder articles below about Indianapolis teen Brandon Johnson, who was beaten by police in May.
See Recorder articles below about Indianapolis teen Brandon Johnson, who was beaten by police in May.

Teen claims beating by IMPD

Officials promise fair investigation


City officials have promised a thorough and fair investigation of an incident involving the alleged beating of a teenager.

Brandon Johnson, 15, says he sustained injuries after being beaten by four police officers on May 16 at an east side apartment complex, as they were about to arrest his younger brother. The officers were responding to a 911 call reporting an attempted burglary.

“One guy swung and hit me and I fell to the ground,” Johnson said. “Then he punched me twice and then another came and held me down and then got the knee in me and had his foot on my back, holding my head down, so I couldn’t do anything.”

In the days following the incident, Johnson showed the media the swollen eye, broken nose, chipped teeth and forehead scar he had after the encounter.

Johnson added that he became involved in the incident to check on his brother because he was crying.

Officers, however, had a different account of the confrontation, saying that Johnson was not comforting his brother, but yelling at them and trying to incite a group of teenagers witnessing the situation.

A police report stated that Johnson’s brother violently resisted arrest, and that Johnson’s behavior began to incite the crowd, leading to “a riotous situation.” He sustained his injuries, the report says, because he kept resisting officer’s attempts to handcuff him.

Johnson’s family wants to send a message to other officers that you cannot beat a kid, call him racial names, break a cell phone that videotapes the incident and get away with it.

Stephen Wagner, an attorney for Johnson’s family, said they believe the actions of the officers, who are white, were racially motivated. He said at least one officer called Johnson, who is biracial, a “mutt” and punched him while he was handcuffed. Wagner also said his client was kicked in the face while he was being held on the ground by police.

“They (the family) want the officers fired and charged with crimes, so that a clear message will be sent that this kind of behavior is unacceptable,” said the attorney.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said that all four officers have been taken off the streets and placed on administrative desk duty while an internal investigation is conducted.

Public Safety Director Frank Straub, who oversees the city’s police and fire departments, said Johnson’s arrest is being reviewed by IMPD’s Professional Standards Division.

“The division will conduct a thorough, objective, and timely investigation of the incident,” Straub told the Recorder. “Upon completion, the department will discuss its findings and its course of action.”

In addition, Police Chief Paul Ciesielski and Deputy Chief Leon Benjamin have met with Black ministers to discuss Johnson’s arrest and its possible impact on the relationship between police and the community.

Community leaders and ministers agree that the result of the altercation is very disturbing. But many think judgment should be withheld until the investigation is completed and it is certain whether or not the officers acted with probable cause

“Sooner or later the truth will come out and we will know what happened,” said Rev. Richard Willoughby, pastor of Promised Land Community Church and president of the Concerned Clergy, a local civil rights organization that has been active in the Indianapolis area for more than 50 years. “When it does come out, we expect that it will be dealt with appropriately.”

Pastor Lionel Rush of Greater Anointing Fellowship Church of God in Christ said there is no excuse for police to beat an unarmed 15 year old child.

“We should be outraged by this,” said Rush, who has participated in protests and demonstrations against police brutality with other activist ministers. “It is a terrible situation that involves an excessive use of force by people who are supposed to serve and protect.”

Rush believes that in addition to IMPD’s internal investigation, another agency should also be asked review the incident.

“The community should call for an independent investigation by the FBI or someone else because local police departments often have difficulty patrolling and correcting themselves,” Rush added.

Straub said IMPD is committed to serving residents with integrity, professionalism and respect.

“Incidents such as this one cannot, and should not, distract the police department or the community from working together to keep our neighborhoods safe by reducing crime and violence,” he said.

Recorder exclusive

leaders:Fire officers

Ministers call for police to be dismissed in teen beating

By James Patterson

Mamie Till was adamant that the mutilated body of her son, Emmett Till, be shown in an open casket after the 14-year-old Black boy was killed in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly getting fresh with a white woman. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby,” Till said at the time.

The Emmett Till case, along with the Rosa Parks-inspired Montgomery bus boycott a few months later, are widely believed to have helped galvanize the civil rights movement in the U.S. The beating case of Black teenager Brandon Johnson seems to be stirring similar emotions in Indianapolis.

A group of Black pastors, leaders and a significant part of the Indianapolis community suspect that 15-year-old Brandon was unnecessarily beaten on May 16, when he questioned police officers near his home who had detained his 14-year-old brother for allegedly attempting to break into a vacant house. Brandon’s teeth were chipped, his nose broken, left eye battered and swollen shut, and his face suffered multiple lacerations and bruises. A police report of the incident said the youth ignored police commands and was trying to incite a riot.

An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department internal affairs investigation was launched over the incident. At the insistence of a group of Black leaders, who met with Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Straub, four of the police officers involved in the altercation with Brandon were put on desk assignment while the investigation ensued. In addition, the Indianapolis Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into the matter. IMPD was expected to announce the results of its investigation on June 10, after Recorder press time. Brandon’s attorney announced that the teen’s family would hold a press conference after police make the results of their investigation public.

Given the history of contentious relations between police and the Black community in Indianapolis, many African Americans are skeptical that police officers will investigate other officers fairly. Other residents, however, are taking a wait-and-see attitude hoping that something will arise to set the record straight and bring about justice. Some have also said that Brandon may have had troubles with authorities before, but nothing has been brought to light. In the meantime, the Indianapolis law enforcement community seems to be closing ranks around the IMPD officers involved in the beating; David Carney: Oliver Clouthier, Stacy Lettinga and Joshua Shaughnessy. One of them, Clouthier, has been suspended six times and once was recommended by his chief for firing.

Cursing in church

In an interesting twist to the case, on June 4 Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi declined to bring charges against Brandon or his brother. However, some Black ministers said on June 8 they were disturbed over the apparent direction of the police internal affairs investigation to that point. Many of them said they had been particularly offended that Straub, the public safety director, had cursed in a church during an earlier meeting with some of their group. And they were upset that he had indicated that some of the ministers would later owe an apology to the police officers involved in the beating case.

The Recorder has learned that a large group of Indianapolis African-American ministers will demand that the four officers who were reassigned to administrative duty over the incident be fired – despite the result is of the internal affairs investigation. The leaders will also call for a dissolution of the police internal investigation system, which they believe is unworkable because it amounts to police investigating themselves.

The safety of the people who will attend Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration activities and their possible confrontation with law enforcement is foremost on the minds of Expo officials.

“Everyone is encouraged and welcome to take part in our family events as we work diligently with the Indiana Metropolitan Police Department, the Indiana State Police, and our private security to ensure the safety of all our attendees,” said IBE President and CEO Tanya Bell.

Spiritual problem

One Indianapolis minister urged both the police and community to do things differently to help avoid incidents such as what happened to Brandon Johnson. “I thank God for the police because there are a lot of people who need policing,” said Rev. Larry C. Martin, pastor of From The Inside-Out Christian Faith Center.

Unfortunately, there are people that have been targeted or stereotyped, and they don’t even realize it, said Martin. “These young men are riding around in flashy cars, four people deep, and they are surprised when they get stopped,” he said.

Martin believes the problem of police officers that seem to have an agenda against certain groups is a spiritual one. “It’s the same problem over and over,” he noted. “We have unredeemed and un-regenerated people in positions of authority. I see a lot of police officers breaking some of he same laws that we get stopped for.”

Regarding the teen beating case, Martin, who was an Indianapolis firefighter for 29 years, and whose father was a longtime Indianapolis Police Department homicide detective, was somewhat troubled. “It’s hard to understand how four or five officers, who were equipped with tasers, mace and handcuffs, were unable to subdue one 15-year-old boy.”

The ministers and leaders who oppose IMPD’s use of force in this case requested that their names not be mentioned in this article because they wanted to speak with one voice.

n solutions sought for excessive force

Boy’s family speaks out


‘I played dead’


Brandon Johnson once wanted to be a police officer – but no longer. The southeast side teen projects a quiet demeanor for his size, six feet and about 200 pounds. He just completed the eighth grade last month at Raymond Park Middle School, and is looking forward to his freshman year at Warren Central High School. But 15-year-old Brandon will not easily forget May of 2010.

“I am not going to stand here and tell you that my sons are perfect; they are not,” said Shantay Chandler, Brandon’s mother. “They have done things that are wrong as all children do. They are capable of doing wrong, there is no doubt in my mind. But Brandon did not deserve what he got out here in front of our home.”

Chandler is a single mother of four children ranging in age from 13-18. They live in a modest home in Warren Township and until last month she had a good-paying job. The incident that that occurred on May 16, however, has turned her life upside down.

Accounts of what happened differ between the police and the family. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said they were called to the 500 block of Fisher Creek Drive on a report of a burglary in progress. Chandler’s son Vincent was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police car. When Brandon refused to leave the scene, police attempted to arrest him but said they weren’t able to do so quickly because he resisted. Therefore, said police, the teen was beaten by at least two officers, David Carney and Jerry Piland.

“As an agency, we regret that this incident occurred,” Police Chief Paul Ciesielski said at the conclusion of his remarks on the internal investigation on June 10. “We have promised an open, honest and transparent investigation and we have accomplished that. Let me be clear. The IMPD has a zero tolerance policy regarding the use of excessive force.”

But the family saw things differently. They said Brandon complied twice with the officers’ demands to walk away; once when he was told to go back into his home, and another time when he was instructed to go and get an adult. Brandon went and got his 18-year-old brother, Mike Jackson. Their mother said when Brandon continued to inquire of police as to why his younger brother was in handcuffs, he was “clocked” by officer Carney. The beating continued, the family said, for several minutes with the youth’s head being the primary target.

“I wanted it to stop, the kicking and hitting, so I played dead,” Brandon told the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper on June 15. He added that after he was handcuffed, one of the uniformed officers took him behind a police car, where the crowd could not see him, pushed him to the ground and kicked him again – this time in the rear. His mother went to Wishard Memorial Hospital, but was not allowed to see the prisoner. She said she was later called by the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center, and asked to please come pick up her son. “The man at the Juvenile Center was in tears,” Chandler said. “When I saw my son, I nearly collapsed.”

The Marion County prosecutor declined to bring charges against the Johnson teens or another man, Xavier Lewis, who was arrested for verbally protesting police actions. Officer Piland, who was not placed on desk duty while the investigation ensued, was recommended for firing by Ciesielski on June 10. The four officers reassigned to administrative duty during the investigation, Jake Clouthier, Stacy Lettinga, Sgt. Josh Shaughnessy, and Carney, were exonerated and returned to duty, although Lettinga received a written reprimand for erroneously arresting Lewis. The recommendation to fire Piland will be taken up by the Police Merit Board, which has the power to accept it, reject it or meet out a lesser punishment, such as, a six-month suspension.

A former correctional officer at the Marion County Jail, Chandler, Brandon’s mother, drove around to broadcast stations trying to get somebody to do a story about her son’s run-in with police. Finally, she said, reporter Rick Dawson at WISH-TV (Channel 8) did a story about the altercation. And from there, other media picked it up.

Some of Brandon’s eighth-grade marks were below average, although he did manage an A-plus in citizenship for two semesters. Earlier this year, Brandon was suspended a day for failing to run the full five miles in gym, his mother said. The altercation caused Brandon and Vincent to miss signing up for the football team, so both are currently on a waiting list.

“He always wanted to be a police officer but not any more,” said Chandler, who moved from Mississippi to Indianapolis in 2001 because she wanted better opportunities for her children than they could expect there. “When I heard what they said that Brandon did, I said, ‘No way, not Brandon.’ Impossible; he is the most reserved, calm and quiet of all of my children.”

Officer Piland lives in the neighborhood and his son regularly plays basketball with Brandon and Vincent. “That’s why when I saw him (Piland) coming towards me and the other officers, I felt better because he knows me,” recalled Brandon. “But he just joined them and started kicking me in the head.”

The incident caused Chandler to lose her job as a processor at Stericycle, a medical waste disposal company, because she needed to take time off work to handle events after the beating of her son. She had been on the job for a little over a month but had not completed the 90-day probationary period, so she was let go. Chandler, however, seems to see a silver lining in her circumstances. “It was the ideal job,” she said. “They said I could reapply for the position after 90 days.”

On June 15, the family’s 2006 Chrysler Sebring was repossessed because Chandler could no longer keep up the payments. “They were real nice about it,” she said. “The guy asked me if I needed to get anything out of it before they towed it.”


Very few people enjoy the sight and smell of garbage, especially on a hot day.

If it is allowed to sit for a long time, it becomes an eyesore and produces a foul odor that makes life miserable for everyone around.

The trash must be dealt with quickly and removed.

In the same way, our community must rise to the challenge of building a better relationship between civilians and the police sworn to protect and serve them.

Otherwise, like hot garbage, longtime mistrust between police and residents, especially Black youth, will continue to fester, making life miserable for us all.

Many community leaders, from ministers to the NAACP, have expressed outrage at the beating of 15-year-old Brandon Johnson by police, as well as the recommendation by IMPD to fire only one officer involved in the incident.

On the other side, the Fraternal Order of Police and others have expressed frustration, saying all officers involved acted according to regulations and reacted appropriately to a threatening situation.

While many criticize police for excessive force or blame Brandon for agitating the officers, virtually everyone agrees that it is time to go beyond “the blame game” and present solutions to prevent such incidents from occurring again.

This is especially important as the city approaches Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration. As the national spotlight shines on Indianapolis next month, will it be seen as a “world-class city” or a dysfunctional metropolis in fear of both criminals and police?

Below are solutions from leaders, youth and police, followed by tips that could help keep situations from escalating:

“Most of us have teenagers and grandchildren who can be subject to this behavior (from police) at any given moment, so if we don’t try to stop it, we’re going to have a greater problem.

This community is saying we demand change in terms of how police interact with citizens. I think both citizens and police should start with a list of expectations, go to the table and talk about what we can come up with and build a consensus. We can start with our extremes, then try to reach something practical that we can all live with.” – Rev. Stephen Clay, Baptist Ministers Alliance.

“IMPD must use this as a learning experience. We will immediately review our use of force policies and our training curriculum. We will send members of my executive staff to other agencies throughout the country to observe their use of force techniques as well as how other departments train their personnel.

We will develop a panel of citizens, who will review our training procedures and act as advisors to the public safety director and me. Furthermore, we will add additional in-service training hours dedicated to the use of less than lethal force. This incident is not reflective of our department as a whole, our mission to reduce crime, or our relationship with the community.” – Paul Ciesielski, chief, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

“Perhaps the best way our community can avoid incidents such as this is to help residents, especially youth, avoid being in situations where they are in conflict with the police. When kids are out for the summer they need positive activities and role models to help them stay focused. Churches, community centers and organizations must step up consistently to provide fun, educational and affordable activities for our youth.

If our young people are busy doing those things, they are less likely to just hang out on the streets, be tempted by criminal activity, or be tied up with anything that calls for the involvement of the police.” – Minister Malachi Walker, Young Men Inc.

“I hope things get better between people and the police, because we’re supposed to help each other. I’m all for respecting authority, and not getting in the way of the police, because they must do their job. But things aren’t fair. The police say we (the youth) disrespect them, but they actually disrespect us first a lot of times.

Things would be cool if the officers would stop talking to us like thugs. – “Antwon McClendon, 17.

IMPD/Youth tips

For Youth

n Do not assume that all police are out to attack or imprison you.

n Remain calm: Shouting and cursing at police presents you as a possible threat and places them on the defensive. If you remain calm, you can better explain your situation to the officer and are more likely to receive a positive response.

n If you see officers conducting an arrest, search or other procedure, do not interfere. If you attempt to stop them or fight them, you will lose… miserably.

n Cooperate: If an officer requests information or gives instructions, do what you are asked. If you or a loved one is being arrested, calmly ask why the arrest is occurring. If an officer does something you disagree with, inform your parents afterwards and ask them to file a complaint with the police department. Arrests and citations can be contested in court.

For Police

Do not assume all youth are delinquents.

Remain calm: If a citizen is obviously not a threat, be respectful, take a few minutes to listen to their concerns, and explain what is expected from them in the situation. Threatening or insulting a resident will make them defensive and more likely to resist.

Warn individuals of further action that could be taken if they do not comply with your requests.

Violence should only be used as a last resort, and nothing ever justifies physical assault of an unarmed minor.

A closer look at the Johnson/IMPD incident


The incident involving Brandon Johnson has garnered media attention and community backlash from the very beginning. For the past few weeks, the Indianapolis community has seen various images of Johnson’s bruised and blood-stained face from the beating. Such an occurrence should have never happened, however, it wasn’t the first and unfortunately, it won’t be the last.

Although Indianapolis doesn’t see nearly as many instances of police brutality as, say Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles, one incident is enough for us to demand change and actually institute policies and procedures that evoke it.

I often talk about the importance of getting to the root of problems. Oftentimes, we discover an issue and suggest a solution based on emotion – a solution that may lead to some immediate change, but not a conducive permanent modification. Solutions need to be carefully considered and examined from various perspectives. Regarding the instance of Johnson, solutions can’t solely benefit him, nor can they solely benefit IMPD – there has to be policies put in place where both parties can learn from and institute positive change. And in order for tangible solutions to be implemented, it’s important for all entities in any situation to take accountability for their respective wrongdoings as well as be fully committed to correcting any mistakes or bad behaviors.

Some people may not like what I’m about to say, but I’m never one to hold my tongue for too long, so I’ll say it anyway. To some degree, Johnson was wrong. I simply can’t buy the notion that Johnson calmly and respectfully asked the officers about the arrest of his brother, void of any aggression or frustration. It’s natural for us to get upset when someone we love or are protective of is in an adverse situation. Exemplifying calm respect in such a situation can be challenging for a 15-year-old youth.

Some will claim that Johnson had a constitutional right to voice his concern and I agree, however, as one Black IMPD officer told me this week, in certain instances “you can’t hold court when emotions are that high.”

As parents, we have to teach our children to respect authority – and that authority includes parents themselves, teachers, and yes - officers of the law.

Make no mistake about it, nothing Johnson said or did constitutes the level of brutality he was subjected to – nothing. However, given the fact that he’s a child, it would have been more appropriate for him to either get an adult to assist, or wait until the situation was diffused to probe.

With that said, the police officers were wrong on varying levels. In an effort to limit redundancy and save space, I defer you to Amos Brown’s column for some specifics, however, I will say that the officers involved in the Johnson instance should have exhibited a higher degree of tolerance.

There’s something about that uniform and holster and even the distinction of driving a car with sirens that make some officers abuse their power. Some officers seem to think that because they carry a badge, they don’t have to exercise certain courtesies and restraints. I remember a few years back when a family member of mine who was assaulted stopped a police officer for help. I was with this family member and witnessed the officer speak to her in a very condescending and disrespectful manner. The female officer even told the assault victim she was wrong for calling the police (because the assailant was also a family member). When I tried to respectfully offer my eyewitness account of what occurred, the female officer began to yell at me.

Clearly, the behavior of that specific officer was an example of how one can abuse their power for no apparent reason. But I digress – back to solutions.

I don’t have the magic answer for the Johnson incident, but I will say that a start would be to have IMPD’s officers more reflective of the community.

An IMPD Workforce Demographics report from May shows a breakdown by race. Check out these numbers:

Out of 1,666 on the force, only 224 are Black, 30 Hispanic, two Asian, and 18 “other.” At 1,392, whites lead the force in numbers. There is one Black assistant chief, one Black deputy chief, and only two Black commanders. On the streets, there are only 174 Black patrol officers compared to 1, 202 of their white counterparts.

There also needs to be more diversity at the IMPD Training Academy. Currently, there are no Black trainers at the academy. No wonder why some of these white officers behave as they do.

It’s time the federal Justice Department monitors IMPD!


I agree with the Baptist Ministers Alliance, the family of Brandon Johnson, and I dare say most of Indianapolis’ 250,000 African-Americans plus thousands of like minded non-Blacks. All the officers involved in the Brandon Johnson incident should be fired or receive long term suspensions without pay.

The one officer fired, Jerry Piland, shouldn’t be the only one.

Piland was off duty when he responded to the incident. According to the narrative provided by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Paul Ciesielski, Piland hit Johnson with knee strikes to the body and “open hand slaps” (i.e. punches) to the face and head. After two other officers had control of Johnson, Piland continued to beat the youth, according to Cielsielski.

Piland wasn’t the only officer who beat Johnson. Officer David Carney, according to Ciesielski’s narrative, was the first to hit Johnson in the face repeatedly with “open hand slaps”.

The so-called Internal Affairs “investigation” doesn’t answer why tasers or other non-lethal weapons (pepper spray) weren’t used. Ciesielski’s narrative says Sergeant Josh Shaughnessy aimed his taser at a threatening bystander, keeping him at bay.

I also disagree with just a reprimand for Officer Stacy Lettinga who arrested a bystander protesting the arrest while standing on his own property. That sort of wrongful, illegal behavior by IMPD occurs all the time and it’s time officers are seriously sanctioned for it.

Over the months, I’ve received numerous calls and e-mails from residents complaining bitterly that they were arrested, for no reason, just because they questioned police tactics or behavior.

Ciesielski and Public Safety Director Frank Straub say IMPD now has a “zero tolerance policy” for police brutality. Yet the other officers involved in the Brandon Johnson incident, including Officer Jake Clouthier, allowed Piland’s brutality to begin and continue. They allowed an illegal arrest to be made. They couldn’t handle teens, living in a nearly all-Black enclave in an otherwise white-majority neighborhood, exercising their First Amendment right to protest.

Yet, all but Piland get off with virtually no punishment.

Our community is asked to accept the Internal Affairs Report. What report? All the community’s seen is a 3½-page, single-spaced “narrative” Ciesielski read at last Thursday’s (June 10th) press conference.

That’s not a “report.” A report would document what witnesses and police saw, heard and said. A “report” would’ve described the scene and provided background on the officers and civilians’ past disciplinary and/or encounters with police.

IMPD preaches “transparency.” To me and our community, “transparency” means providing details and information, not a warmed over summary.

Straub wants our community to trust that he will do right by our African-American community. When he first arrived, Straub impressed the only Black leaders he met – ministers. But now Straub’s stock with Black ministers has fallen faster than BP’s.

Straub angered a broad spectrum of clergymen last week when, at a meeting in a church, he used the epithet “you people” and some profanity.

It doesn’t help to build trust when Straub’s staff is noticeably monochromatic; all white except for a security man. The lack of Black staffers could explain his church faux pas and other perceived insensitivities.

Straub promises a panel of community folks will advise IMPD on improving training and community relations.

But Indy’s been there, done that.

The 1982 Tanselle-Adams Report, compiled after a rash of police action shootings, made training and community involvement recommendations for police.

The 1988 report by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee’s Human Relations Task Force also recommended improved training, greater community involvement and a police civilian complaint board, which in 2010 is a failure and a joke!

IMPD brags that police complaints are down. But you wouldn’t know it from the many complaints I receive.

The police complaint system is onerous, cumbersome and un-user friendly. Other police departments take complaints online. Indianapolis should accept police complaints (and compliments) via the Internet and text messaging and place complaint forms in area libraries and community centers.

Then there’s the case of our missing Mayor Greg Ballard. He wanted control of police, but has been invisible during this crisis. He released a statement after the Internal Affairs “report” was released. But he should’ve said something a month ago.

Black ministers condemned the mayor’s silence saying he was “more concerned with capital improvements” than this issue.

But that’s not the only example of the Ballard administration’s inept handling of this crisis. I’m told at a meeting of the city’s Race Relations Task Force, a senior Ballard Administration official attacked the group, demanding they say nothing about the incident. This mayor minion’s shrill attack angered and dismayed the multiracial group and marked the first time any mayor tried to keep the race relations group from examining a police/community relations issue.

I’m also hearing that the Ballard administration nixed a new IMPD recruit class, allegedly for budgetary reasons, that would’ve been at least a third Black.

After a slow initial response from the NAACP to the ministers and to Black elected officials, Indianapolis’ Black leadership is now alive with determination and anger. But, unfortunately, the Urban League sits on the sidelines because of the conflict of Urban League President Joe Slash, who also sits on the Police Merit Board.

That conflict is keeping one of our community’s historically strong voices against police abuse of power quiet.

Black leadership’s demands include new federal monitoring of IMPD. Why?

When you have a police department with no new Black recruits over two years, no new Black sergeants and lieutenants, no Blacks on the police academy’s faculty. A police department, where complaints about nasty comments and boorish behavior by cops is increasing. When the prevailing attitude of many cops is that when it comes to Blacks, they’re an army of occupation, not a force to protect and serve, then it’s time for the feds to monitor.

Our community agrees with “zero tolerance” for police brutality. We also want “zero tolerance” on police abuse of power, police disrespect towards Blacks, Hispanics, persons of color and the poor in Indianapolis. We want zero tolerance against those cops who lash out with no fear of facing discipline at those peacefully, verbally protesting police actions. We want zero tolerance against the refusal of IMPD, and the mayor who controls them, to hire and promote Black officers.

It’s time for the federal monitoring of IMPD. Now!

See ‘ya next week!

Sharpton to appear

Internationally-known civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton will appear in Indianapolis during a special community worship service on July 11 at 7 p.m. at Eastern Star Church, 5750 E. 30th St.

Everyone in the community is invited to attend the event, which is themed, “Together We Stand.”

Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, will join local ministers in presenting solutions to community problems highlighted by the recent beating of 15-year-old Brandon Johnson by police. Topics will include excessive police force, internal police investigations, training of officers and improving police and community relations.

Other ministers will include Stephen J. Clay, president of the Baptist Ministers Alliance, Fitzhugh Lyons, president of the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance; Ronald Covington, president of the Union District Baptist Association; Richard Willoughby, president of the Concerned Clergy; and Jeffrey A. Johnson Sr., pastor of Eastern Star Church and several others.

Sharpton to preach at Messiah Sunday


Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network in Brooklyn, N.Y., will be preaching at 11 a.m. on July 11, at the Messiah Missionary Baptist Church, 5640 E. 38th St. The public is invited. Rev. Stephen J. Clay, president of the Baptist Minister’s Alliance, is senior pastor.

In addition, Sharpton, a well-known civil rights leader, will speak at 7 p.m. that day at Eastern Star Church, 5750 E. 30th St., during a special community worship service entitled “Together We Stand.”

Sharpton will join local ministers and community leaders in presenting solutions to community problems, which were magnified in the wake of the police beating of Indianapolis teenager Brandon Johnson.

The service topics will include excessive police force, internal police investigations, officer training and improving police-community relations.

Among the many ministers expected to attend the community worship service at Eastern Star are Fitzhugh Lyons, president of the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance; Ronald Covington, president of the Union District Baptist Association; Richard Willoughby, president of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis; Clay and the host Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson Sr.


galvanizes frustrated city


National civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton gave his support to a growing effort to prevent cases of police brutality in Indianapolis.

On July 11, during a special community service at Eastern Star Church, Sharpton gave a historic speech that dealt largely with the case involving Brandon Johnson. The 15-year-old was beaten in May during an incident with police.

Johnson’s family says he was beaten unnecessarily, but officers say he interfered with the arrest of his brother for burglary and resisted efforts to be restrained. Photos of bruises on his swollen face and lacerations to his head have been widely distributed.

People outside of the city “would assume that police in Indianapolis aren’t trained on how to restrain people,” Sharpton said before an audience of 3,000 at the church, where Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson, Sr. is pastor. “Tell me how beating someone in their face is resisting arrest. What can somebody’s face do to resist arrest?”

Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, was invited to speak by the Baptist Ministers Alliance and the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance, groups frustrated with what they see as a lack of progress in improving police/community relations.

Sharpton noted that he and the local ministers recognize that most officers are decent and professional, and they are simply calling for the dismissal of those who abuse their power.

“If you don’t have the temperament and the ability to handle a police matter, you ought not be on the police force,” Sharpton said to applause. “If you have to get as out of control as some of the kids, then why do you have a badge and a gun?”

Following an internal investigation by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), one of the five officers involved in the Johnson incident was fired and another reprimanded for not following police regulations. Sharpton said he supports community leaders who are calling for all five to be dismissed.

“They were all there when it happened,” Sharpton said. “Did the other officers step up and intervene when the situation went too far?”

While Sharpton was critical of abusive police, he also had an important message for youth, particularly African-American teens and young adults.

“We are going to stand up for you, but we’re not standing up for your right to be a hoodlum or a thug,” Sharpton said.

The minister called on youth to be more respectful of authority, whether it is parents, teachers or the law. Later, he delivered a sermon encouraging them to discover their gifts and purpose in life. Sharpton was joined by Johnson and his mother as ministers invited youth to the altar to pray for their success and protection.

Rev. Stephen J. Clay, president of the Baptist Minister’s Alliance and pastor of Messiah Missionary Baptist Church, said police training must be revamped with civilian oversight.

“Children, no matter which part of the city they live in, shouldn’t be afraid of the police, and they definitely should not look like they have been in a prizefight after encountering them,” he said.

New developments

Public Safety Director Frank Straub, who joined police in visiting residents of the Haughville area over the weekend, has promised to change the training process to ensure that officers properly handle potentially tense situations. He just hopes that continued discussion about Johnson does not prevent the community from moving forward in building a better relationship with police and residents.

“That situation has become a race incident,” Straub said. “This is really a conversation about police conduct and the community it serves, and the community’s conduct relative to the police.”

Rev. Mmoja Ajabu, associate minister of programs and social concerns at Light of the World Christian Church, said ministers are not trying to emphasize race in their concerns.

“We do not need to make this a race issue,” he said. “This issue is about the rights we have as citizens.”

On Monday, Ajabu and other ministers led more than 300 individuals in a march around the City-County Building to stop excessive use of force.

Ajabu said the march was a success and learned that Mayor Greg Ballard has agreed to meet with community leaders to discuss the issue of police force, although his office had not confirmed that at press time. The ministers cited the mayor’s “silence” on the issue as one of their concerns.

“Progress is at hand,” Ajabu said.

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