Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

At least 42 black people have been murdered this year. It’s past time we start talking about our personal and collective responsibility to address community violence.

Police reform ain’t over. 

With a 95% reduction in police-action shootings, the community should still ask its questions and a special prosecutor shouldn’t be a tool used to keep the community from information. We probably do need something better than what current state law provides as it pertains to independent prosecutions.

A use-of-force board that is essentially six police officers and two civilians isn’t the kind of civilian participation anyone asked for.  

I’m also concerned about the state law governing the body cameras which limits the ability of the public to see the footage. 

There’s more work to do on police reform, but we have to start working on us, too.  

Black Indianapolis has not only been dying from COVID-19; we are being murdered at levels that should shock the conscience. 

And of the assailants we know of — too many are Black. 

I raise this not because I believe in Black pathology. To the contrary, this column has focused on the deplorable conditions we endure too often due to government indifference, flawed policies and systems that do not work for us. 

But there is the issue of both personal and community accountability. You can fight for police reform and call for community reform, too. 

We did not rally when 8-year-old Rodgerick Payne Jr. was murdered. We did not rally when 16-year-old Nya Cope was murdered. Damario McCullough was only 17 years old when he was murdered. 

Of course, we were sad. 

Of course, our community was pained. But there hasn’t been the same level of mobilization on this matter — not even when children are killed.

But I’m not looking for a wringing of hands.  

We haven’t talked about how, as a community, we need to make sure this is unacceptable. Where is our social contract? Where is our code of conduct? 

Where are our community standards that say you can’t kill an innocent and not turn yourself in? 

Who is protecting these people? Why have we as a community not brought the assailants to justice? 

Too many of our murders are going unsolved, so we are not only dying, but also letting murderers move among us. 

There’s some rationale, no doubt, circulating in the community about why things are what they are. I’m also aware of those who are frustrated with the process they have endured trying to seek justice for the death of loved ones.  

I understand that crimes happen for the most part within races as opposed to against other races. But Black people are being murdered at levels that should shock the conscience. How do we get to a shared aspiration for us not killing us? 

Black people are being killed by Black people. That is an issue. As a community we have to figure out how to respond.  

Because not mobilizing on this issue isn’t working, and it is costing us precious generations. 

We need a social contract and new standards of community accountability. 

And some of us are flat out behaving badly.

There have been at least two videos on social media of individuals advocating violence toward IMPD officers. This is unacceptable. 

It is not consistent with our community’s values. It is outrageous, especially given the recent death of officer Breann Leath and the attempted ambush of four IMPD officers not even two weeks ago — who were simply responding to what was supposed to be a citizen’s call for help.

Protesting is protesting. And to be clear, the local protestors are doing just that. We have a right to protest — it is the language of the unheard.  

But suggesting the need to teach young people how to ambush police officers is a corruption of the youth. Threatening violence against officers’ families is not protesting; it’s the despicable act of twisted human beings. 

I don’t know where all the over 26 threats to officers came from, but the overwhelming majority of Black people in this city — even while frustrated — have a basic decency that does not support threatening police officers or their families.  

Unfortunately, an Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police union leader and sergeant within IMPD felt the need to promote the “us” versus “them” trope mostly for small “P” political gain in a negotiation year for a union police contract. What he said, ultimately, doesn’t matter because he doesn’t speak for IMPD. 

Veiled threats against the community — any community — especially from a law enforcement officer, are unacceptable. 

And for the record, the community agrees with IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, who has clearly stated that threatening IMPD officers is reprehensible and shouldn’t happen. 

We are better than how we are behaving right now. 

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

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