Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

How about the city does what we’ve asked them to do before asking us to trust them?

The city made two important announcements last week, including the development of an independent review of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s response to protesters, a move that has the potential to both improve IMPD operations and increase transparency. OK. 

Good, solid, practical move. 

They also announced a partnership with the Criminal Justice Lab at the New York University School of Law on reimagine policing, which was met with a clear, unmistakable rejection by a still growing number of Black leaders.  

We have an entire Black agenda and are engaged in policy fights on a use-of-force board, while clearly demanding a commission on African American males, a community review of the Citizens’ Police Complaint Board, a release of the IMPD report coming out of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion — and did I mention there’s an entire Black agenda that has been reviewed by a galaxy of Black people and clearly already connects community violence to affordable housing, food deserts, education and the need for Black economic inclusion?

Did I mention the Black agenda not only has data, but we are using surveys to update metrics? 

This request for the Black community to trust this administration is also occurring at a time when protesters are calling for defunding and disbanding the police, which needs to be explored more for the larger Black community to get behind, but certainly we haven’t experienced the transparency that anyone wants in the Dreasjon Reed case. 

White people need to listen to Black folks — and the city needs to do what we asked them. 

How about we start there… 

We called for an independent investigation of the shooting death of Dreasjon Reed, and we got FBI monitoring. 

We only got an independent investigation when the special prosecutor handling the Dreasjon Reed case called for one.

We just got the name of the two officers involved in the Dreasjon Reed shooting — after a protest and riot. 

Despite having the largest Black male population in the state and a homicide rate that should shock the conscious, we still don’t have a commission on African American males. 

The Latinx community not only has a commission but a staffer in the mayor’s office committed to their concerns. Where is our person, waking up every day and working on Black issues?

We basically have called a use-of-force board dead on arrival without a strong civilian majority on the board. Nevertheless, the board breakdown is uncertain. Why?

We shouldn’t even be having that fight as the whole idea of a use-of-force board came out of the failure of the system to hold the officers who killed Aaron Bailey accountable. We’re supposed to expect basically the same system to do something different?  

A use-of-force policy took almost three years to develop, and it’s still not implemented. 

There’s an Office of Diversity and Inclusion in IMPD that produced a report, and we still don’t know officially what is in the report. 

Then the city jumps at an offer from an NYU law professor to come in and tell Black people what we already know and have placed in a Black agenda, as well as the community conversations effort that Black organizations participated in following the Bailey shooting. 

Beyond commissions being a place where problems go to die, politicians can use them to silence critics, to turn down the heat, slow down and deflate the energy of community-led reform, and use Black people to signal acceptance or at least cooperation. 

Candidly, the city’s credibility is shaky, and there is a trust deficit mostly because of all the things laid out above — plus we shouldn’t have to fight this hard. 

It’s not all bad. The city had some advances on looking into mental health reform, but the community led on implicit bias training, posting of general orders and implementation on a searchable database of citizen complaints. 

A 95% reduction in police-action shootings between 2014 and 2019 is probably the best example of community leaders and activists working with IMPD — but it’s not clear how this occurred and whether it is sustainable. 

And when we look back it may turn out that ankle monitoring may have undermined actual progress in our criminal justice system. 

We’ve called for multi-agency investigations, special prosecutors, implicit bias training, community policing with officers walking the streets, diversity and inclusion throughout IMPD, increased mental health wellness services for IMPD, a volunteer mental health unit to intercede in situations where citizens are struggling with a mental health episode, more less-lethal tools for officers, and even increased options to place people instead of jail, including community mediation centers — even the community policing itself. 

We are demanding action. 

It might also help to recognize local Black talent and Black ideas before, and asking our community if we want yet another conversation on this matter before reaching out to non-diverse consultants to come talk to the Black community about our problems with police.

The Black community just wants the Hogsett administration to do what we’ve asked, which in a number of instances simply means keeping the promises it made to the community three years ago. 

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

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