crowd at public safety committee meeting

It was standing room only at the city-county council's Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee meeting Feb. 5. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

Democrats on an Indianapolis City-County Council committee rejected a Republican-backed proposal that would have created a commission to study violent crime and its disparate impact on African Americans, opting instead to continue with their own plan.

The proposal, brought to the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, would have established a commission to review the status of the city’s short- and long-term response to violent crime, recommend proposals and gather information to recommend policy changes.

The proposal failed, 8-3, along party lines.

African Americans represented 75% of homicide victims in 2019, but Democrats said they already have enough information about violent crime to know what the issue is and how to go about solving it.

“We already have systems in place to address many of the concerns in your proposal,” Democratic committee chair Leroy Robinson, District 1, said at the Feb. 5 meeting.

Robinson pointed to the Criminal Justice Planning Committee and Government Alliance of Race and Equity as examples.

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Republican Brian Mowery, District 25, who sponsored the bill and was its strongest defender at the meeting, said those systems haven’t been working.

“Where have they been at?” he said. “… I’m sure they do great work, but maybe it’s time to try a different avenues.”

Democrats also said the commission would stand in the way of action.

“I’m done studying the issue,” Democrat Dan Boots, District 3, said. “… I think it’s time we really act.”

Robinson has announced changes to the committee that include getting more regular updates from law enforcement and giving all members of the city-county council a chance to work with public safety agencies to create more specific plans for their respective districts.

Robinson has also said the reform efforts will include a review of public policies through an “equity lens.”

Shortly after Democrats rejected the proposed commission, four people died in a shooting on the far east side.

Along with Mayor Joe Hogsett and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Randal Taylor, Robinson released a statement saying he wants to “reaffirm my commitment to work in a bipartisan way with all of my colleagues on the Council, including all members of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice committee and all other stakeholders to address the challenge of violent crime and its root causes.”

The next committee hearing will take place at a to-be-determined location in the community Feb. 26. Robinson said interim Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears will be at the meeting.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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