Council to conduct community meetings to discuss trust in police

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The president of the Indianapolis City-County Council announced Thursday it will host a series of community meetings starting May 31 to discuss local policing.

The action comes in the aftermath of a civilian police merit board decision on the fatal shooting of an unarmed man, Aaron Bailey. 

A seven-member board on May 10 voted 5-2 on multiple counts that two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers had “no violation” in the shooting death of Bailey. Bailey, who was unarmed, was shot and killed after he drove away from two police officers during a west side traffic stop June 29. 

Vop Osili, president of the City-County Council, and other councilors had a news conference Thursday afternoon outside downtown’s City-County Building. He said he and the council, not the city administration or the police department, were taking this action. 

The goal of the effort, he said, is to address the breakdown in trust with the police and to leave people with a greater trust in the department. 

The first community meeting will be May 31 at King-Kennedy Park, 1701 Broadway St. Details about that meeting and future ones were not immediately available.

Osili said councilors hope to hear from the community, including the rank-and-file police employees, on what could make a difference. He said the meetings will hear the voices of the people.

Another reason for the meetings is that solutions “thrown at” the police issues so far have been unsuccessful. 

He said councilors want the people of Indianapolis to know they are a priority and their trust and the quality of life are top issues. 

In addition, the council will look at other communities across the nation for solutions, Osili said. 

Satchuel Cole, vice president of the civil rights activism group Don’t Sleep, said she plans to attend the meetings. She said she wants to see changes to the Civilian-Police Merit Board that voted to keep the officers who shot Bailey. 

“These conversations need to be had. Can we get (the merit board positions) as elected positions? Can people run for this instead of it just being, this is a friend or this is someone just being suggested.”

Currently, two members of the merit board were voted in by police officers, four were appointed by Mayor Greg Ballard, and one was appointed by the City County Council. 

Rick Snyder, president of the local police union, said officers are looking forward to joining the discussion but he does not feel the focus should be on the merit board. 

The Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement via Twitter in reaction to the council’s announcement:

“We applaud the words of our Council leaders today. Their focus is on proactively moving forward not looking backward while building trust and respect between our community and the rank and file of the police department.” 

 Osili remarks on community meetings

  • In the aftermath of the Police Merit Board decision regarding the officers involved in the Aaron Bailey shooting, we have spent the past week listening to constituents in our districts.
  • My fellow Councillors from both sides of the aisle stand together to acknowledge that many members of our community including feel mistrusted, misunderstood, and devalued by those they see as being on “the other side.”
  • We also hear a plea in our districts and our community at large that we find a way forward.  We hear calls for the Council to engage in a way that perhaps it hasn’t before to address the mutual barriers to trust – our residents’ trust in our police department and our officers’ trust in our residents—and to do it in a way that is actionable, measurable, and brings together people from all sides of these issues. 
  • We know that members of IMPD and members of the broader community care deeply about these issues and want to improve relations; that doing so benefits us all. We want to work through these challenging times in a way that allows Indianapolis to set an example for other cities and towns struggling with the same challenges.
  • We understand that, like it or not, Indianapolis is now part of a national conversation about tensions between law enforcement and communities of color.  This is bigger than just us – it is a complex set of issues without a simple solution — but we believe in this city and know that we are up to the task.  And we can get this right.
  • Members of our Council stand together today to pledge that we will work together to find that path forward that our residents are seeking.  We understand that we’ll need to break some new ground to find it—and that we won’t be doing it alone.
  • Our first step in uncovering the path forward is a commitment to listen. Within the next 10 days, we will announce the first of what will likely be many Community Conversations to be held throughout our city and county.  Our priority in these conversations will be to listen, while those most affected by these divisions in our community—rank and file police officers, crime victims, and others—tell us their stories. We hope to be joined by other leaders in the community who are willing to listen to the many voices on all sides of this issue.
  • Our next step will be to examine how these issues have played out in cities and town across our country, to determine best practices and benchmarks from communities that have wrestled with the same challenges and come out better for it.
  • Our constituents are the catalysts of this process.  From this dialogue we will pursue actionable steps with measurable outcomes – not top down solutions but solutions which come as a result of collaboration and the voices we heard.  We want the people of Indianapolis to know that they are our priority and their trust and overall quality of life are our top concerns. 

This story will be updated. Watch 24-Hour News 8 at 5 and 6 p.m. for a report from Tim McNicholas.

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