Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

While progress has been made, Mayor Hogsett must finish the job of police reform.

It is always a tragedy when someone in our city dies.

We recognize the pain and sadness of all involved including the family of Deshon Downing.

We also recognize that the officers and their families are also impacted by this tragedy.

This incident is also a reminder of what hasn’t happened in police reform — but first let’s acknowledge what has happened.

We should tell IMPD when they are doing well, because we don’t seem to have a problem letting them know when we don’t like what they are doing. Positive reinforcement is just as important a tool as our critique.

So on that note …

IMPD has begun implementation of Fair and Impartial police training with both officers as well as the community. There is now an Office of Diversity and Inclusion within IMPD looking at all aspects of the department for ways to improve the department. The general orders, or the rules officers use for engaging citizens, are posted on IMPD’s website.

IMPD has had outside legal experts review their policies and procedures.

Per a 2011 ordinance, IMPD finally has a searchable database of citizen complaints against IMPD officers.

We should also note that with the last police action shooting IMPD has been as transparent as they could during a difficult time for the community.

Now to be fair — the mayor has done some important things on police reform.

There is new representation on the merit board, the body that hires and fires IMPD officers.

We also have a new executive director of the Citizens Police Complaint Board.

IMPD definitely deserves credit for the work they have done — it is important that we acknowledge that. Nevertheless, there is still work to be done and that’s according to Mayor Hogsett himself.

A little over two years ago, among other reforms, the mayor announced a Use of Force Review Board and a comprehensive review of the Citizens Police Complaint Board.

According to the Indy Star, we’ve had at least 10 police-action shootings, since Aaron Bailey’s police-action shooting death in 2017.

We do not have a Use of Force Review Board, nor has there been a review of the Citizens Police Complaint Board.

This is on the mayor because IMPD can’t review the Citizens Police Complaint process — the mayor has to lead that. He should also be held accountable for taking several months to hire an executive director for the office.

Sure, IMPD can create a Use of Force Review Board, but one that has citizen’s input requires additional actors including leadership from the mayor.

The mayor said there was going to be police reform and IMPD seemingly has delivered on what it can do — now we need the mayor to finish it.

What I’m hearing …

It seems that we are already forgetting some of the lessons of the Aaron Bailey police-action shooting death.

As our community has learned, when there is a police action shooting there is a process that is supposed to be followed. IMPD is currently conducting two parallel investigations, one administrative and one criminal. But unlike in the Aaron Bailey case, there has not been a multi-agency investigation.

In fact, multi-agency investigations, an Obama 21st Century Policing Taskforce recommendation, haven’t happened for a lot of the police-action shootings that have occurred since 2017.

Many of you will be surprised to learn that a 2018 Indy Star investigation found that 19 police-action shootings, six of which were fatal, were not investigated by IMPD. Some of the uninvestigated police action shootings went back to 2015.

Yes. Nineteen police action shootings going as far back as 2015. Six of them fatal. IMPD cleared officers of criminal charges, but there were no administrative reviews — which is part of IMPD policy. 

Community leaders made a point to follow up with IMPD on the 19 police action-shooting investigations. Chief Roach was transparent about the issue and addressed it. They’ve since been completed — but we shouldn’t have been in this situation in the first place.

Multi-agency investigations not only help with legitimacy, but by now, its also just seems like common sense.

We haven’t had a special prosecutor for any of these police-action shootings that have happened since Aaron Bailey either.

According to an Indy Star database on homicides, we had 85 homicides as of Aug. 6 last year, and as of the same date this year we have had 83 homicides. 

We had nine people die in nine days recently.

Our community has to take this challenge on.

Congratulations to the organizers of the S.H.E. Event at Lafayette Square Mall and the Black Business Bazaar. Both events were well attended and were a demonstration of our community’s ability to support Black businesses. 

See you next week …

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com.

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