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‘We Stand Together’: Wayne James, Indiana University Police Department

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Discussions about systemic racism and policing often happen in the same breath. How to best police is a key topic. The Indiana University Police Department recently announced a 17-year police veteran will head it’s diversity and community engagement efforts. In this ‘We Stand Together’ report, Katiera Winfrey speaks to Wayne James.

The path to becoming Indiana University Police Department’s first chief diversity officer for Wayne James. He started In Gary, Indiana. Working with local police forces before transitioning to Indiana University Northwest. He stayed there for 11 years. Now, he calls Bloomington home as he takes up his duties as the assistant VP and deputy superintendent for law enforcement operations across every IU campus. It’s his job to expand inclusion and diversity in recruitment and he takes it very seriously.

WINFREY: Everyone in your average police department, diversity is something that you aim for. But even on college campuses. Talk about why that’s important to have a diverse staff?

JAMES: It’s important that we have a diverse staff. So if you look at in higher education, particularly Indiana University Police Department. As a university we have a lot of opportunities to have long lasting relationships. And we need to make sure that in our hiring process and practices then, not only are we looking for the best candidates but we’re also looking for officers who are culturally responsible to the populations we serve. Because we have students from as far as international, from some marginalized communities, as well as student population of women in all our campuses across the state. So it’s very important to us not only that we look to hire and replace officers, but we are hiring the best officers that are really culturally responsive to the sensitive population that we serve.

WINFREY: I know a lot of people are making moves in light of recent events. Is your position something that’s been in the works, or is this in response to what we’ve seen across the country?

JAMES: No it’s been in the works. And what I will say to you is we have been a progressive agency. Back in 2017 of October we formed a de-escalation commission which I chaired. And what this commission did was look at our training. And we looked at our training and we said to ourselves it was sufficient. But we needed to do better. So during that time when we talk about the de-escalation, de-escalation is pretty much woven and integrated into all our culture of our agency that embrace that. And one of the things that came out of that was we saw the need that we needed to be consistent with making sure officers receive mental health and first aid training throughout the agency. And we sent four people. We invested into that. We sent for people to mental health instructor school to come back in and train our officers in mental health first aid. We also purchased a virtual simulator. Which is a scenario-based simulator. Not shoot don’t shoot but scenario-based. So we put officers on that to see how they would respond and react to different scenarios. And not all of them is pulling your weapon. A lot of it is to de-escalation in talking to somebody. One of the other things that we did was also fair and impartial policing training and procedural justice training as well. And integrated that into our culture. Now this was several years ago and our response to resistance policy and made updates that were we prohibited chokehold and there was also intervention where if an officer is using excessive force they have to report it, will report it to a supervisor. We have given officers the resources to respond to volatile situations without always having to run in. If they can de-escalate to de-escalate and deadly force is a last option.

WINFREY: And as someone with 18-17 years of experience in law-enforcement, how do you feel seeing everything happen and all the action and all the police departments trying to reevaluate procedures and reevaluate how they interact with the public. How do you feel about seeing all that?

JAMES: I think, I talk from my experience and personal opinion. We should never have to look at our policies and procedures as it relates to training and things like that. When crisis occur right. We know that that happened we should always be looking two to three years ahead, looking at best practices the national standards meeting those standards. But also working with other departments as well to see what they are doing. What has unfolded over the last few months in this country have been very sad. Even George Floyd that was the tipping point really of systematic and institutional racism that has been going on in this country for quite some time. I think his law enforcement officers we need to be open to those different perspectives and working more closely with our community partners and in our case our campus partners are faculty staff and students. But also the communities we serve because serve some of those demographics and people who come from those environments such as Gary, Indianapolis, South Bend and others where we’re integrated into the community as well. So it’s more important for us to utilize those resources and build those legitimate relationships intentionally, but also making sure we are maintaining consistency as well .