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‘We Stand Together’: Josh Garrett, Zionsville Town Council

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A resolution on social justice is one of the latest moves made by the Zionsville Town Council. Sparked by George Floyd’s death and continued protests — the resolution aims at taking steps to proactively work to keep a similar tragedy from happening locally.

News 8’s Katiera Winfrey sat down with Zionsville Town Council President Josh Garrett for another segment of “We Stand Together.”

Zionsville’s population is roughly 27,000 people and 95% of the residents would classify themselves as white. But the conversations about racial and social justice isn’t lost on members of the community and administration. In a unanimous vote, council members recently approved a social justice resolution, which in part condemns racism of all kinds while working to improve police and public relations.

WINFREY: We are living in very interesting times when you look at all of the protests and everything happening across the country. When you look at that what goes through your mind being able to see all this unfold?

GARRETT: I mean it’s a range of emotions right. It’s sadness to see people still having to do this. It is hope that we live in a country that allows us to do that. It’s hope for change and not just something happens for a period of time and a new cycle moves on or people’s attention moves on. I am eternally an optimist, I am an optimist in America and what we can become even though we’ve got a long way to go. And so whatever we can do at least on a local level to try to push against that and bring people together, I think that’s the only way you can address some of these things, it’s through conversations like this.

WINFREY: And you talk about the work you can do it at the local level, talk about what Zionsville is doing to try to bridge that gap or create that social change?

GARRETT: It’s tough right, because on some levels, what can we do? The problem is so big, the problem is so systemic, but on the other hand we’ve got to do something. And so for us a lot of it is having the conversations. How do we have the conversation in public to talk about these things that are happening and why they are happening and get other people’s perspectives. You know you and me have different backgrounds. From where we were raised and how we were raised and getting a chance to understand how that impacted you and you understanding how it impacted me and how we can meet in the middle. I think that’s important. So from an administrative level you know certainly we can help from a policing standpoint. How do we make sure our officers have the right training, how do they have the right culture to make sure they aren’t targeting people based on their certain ethnicity or based on race gender or anything like that? And if there is a need to interact how do they do that in a way that keeps them safe and the public safe? So part of the resolution we put together was really around making sure that we address that with the mayor.

WINFREY: Give us the background. What is the resolution? how did you get to this point?

GARRETT: You know with the murder of George Floyd up in Minnesota, it was something where one of our counselors Alex Choi came to us and said I want to do something. I see what happened, certainly we want to make sure it doesn’t happen in Zionsville. How do we make something out of that tragic event? So for us it was very important to make sure that what we were doing was not just passing something and then forgetting about it. Or checking a box. So oftentimes when you create a resolution you want to create some sort of action. So part of the resolution certainly was acknowledging what happened to Mr. Floyd, acknowledging the protests in the Black Lives Matter. And acknowledging just that phrase that Black Lives Matter. But then part of that was action oriented. So one of those pieces was making sure that the police have the training, the funding, to interact properly and to do a review with the board of the police commissioners and do a review with the mayor to make sure that those things were happening. And then lastly we are certainly calling on our legislators at the state level or the national level to do similar times of things because obviously you can impact a bigger population than just Zionsville.

WINFREY: Have you been able to put any of these practices into motion or are you still coming up with the way to implement them?

GARRETT: We have. We’ve already done the police review component. I’m also on the board of police commissioners and so we’ve been working closely with the police chief. There’s two components to that. One is making sure that they’ve got the right training that’s important in any sort of situation. Part of it too though is we have not a very diverse police force quite candidly. And so how do we go about more proactively recruiting Black police officers or Black individuals who may be interested in policing and what kind of process can they go through and certainly anyone of any race to really broaden our pool of candidates?

WINFREY: And just finally, overall all of these things are happening and there’s always some type of skepticism to some degree. But overall are you hopeful that this is the spark to a massive change locally and nationally?

GARRETT: I am hopeful that what is happening now is the last grasp of people trying to cling on to old ways that were happening. And that movements that are happening whether it is local in Zionsville or if it’s a national campaign like Black Lives Matter, rule changes for the better. Again it will take time, this is not something that’s going to happen overnight. Again change is something that we hope for and that’s the optimism I have.