By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
When it comes to the epidemic of urban violence plaguing America, many feel compelled to take sides. On one hand, there is the never-ending tragedy of unarmed African Americans gunned down by police. On the other is the wanton and cruel cancer of homicide in the Black community.
The death toll of a weekend in Chicago is horrifying. The public is virtually numb to the incessant killings in cities like Gary and Indianapolis. Programs in the community, activities for youth, neighborhood watch and vigils produce little change.
It becomes heartbreaking when the victim is a young child – brutally deprived of an opportunity to experience his or her God-given life. And the resiliency of a community is challenged to the brink when dedicated workers trying to stave off the violence become victims.
And no one can rest, knowing how heartless and cold killers have become, with random shootings in public places and invasions of the sanctity of home, motivated by money or for what might be the thrill of the kill, premeditated or spur of the moment. The epidemic is clearly diagnosed but the remedy is elusive – the prognosis grim.
In Indianapolis, the city was stunned in the wake of a 15-year-old boy arrested in connection with a triple homicide at a north side apartment over the weekend. IMPD said they found three unresponsive males when they arrived. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
Friends and family of the three victims tell me they are stunned that such a young man may be responsible for such a horrible crime. “I just can’t believe a 15-year-old is the reason why three people were taken away from us like that,” said Shevy Price. She wonders how the youth managed to get a gun – much less an automatic weapon of the kind used in the crime.
Even though Indianapolis police say the triple shooting was not random and may have been a drug related robbery, it is hard for local residents to comprehend how a child so young could go so far wrong so soon. Police say just a couple hours after the fatal shooting, the 15-year-old suspect was taken into custody after showing up at Methodist hospital with a gunshot wound,
On the other side of the spectrum, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett outlined what he called “sweeping changes” to public safety policy in response to the recent police shooting death of Aaron Bailey following a police chase on June 29. Bailey was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
Multiple investigations are underway, including a criminal and administrative investigation. There`s also a separate, outside FBI investigation.
Hogsett acknowledged the city`s response is critical in light of other incidents happening across the county. “If a community does not bear witness together, if it chooses to look the other way in the face of a painful past, it risks its very soul… Today in Indianapolis we bear witness. Today, in Indianapolis, we act,” Hogsett said.
Hogsett proceeded to highlight five major changes he plans to make within IMPD in an effort to strengthen the trust between IMPD and the community and increase transparency in the policing process. Those changes include:
- Implicit Bias Training: Hogsett says nationally recognized experts will be brought in for a new program to train officers.
- Creation of a Use of Force Review Board: He says IMPD will create a board that will review any use of force – including firearms, Tasers or anything physical.
- Creation of an Office of Diversity and Inclusion: This will be included within the IMPD Training Academy.
- Training Curriculum Review and Reform: He will bring in legal experts to analyze training for all officers, both current and new.
- Community Review of the Citizens Police Complaint Board: This board is already in place, but Hogsett is calling on community and faith leaders to review their process.
Hogsett has won the approval of the community with his compassionate response to the shooting and his firm plan of action. That’s not always the case in the U.S. Hogsett reasoned, “There is no such thing as too much accountability. We want to review, as we do currently but in a more formal way, any time there’s a physical altercation.”
These two evils haunt everyday working people on a regular basis – the threat of homicide on the street or deathly assault by police. We don’t have to choose one or the other. Elimination of either without the other will be tragic for the Black community. Efforts to stop the violence must be multifaceted, consistent, firm, creative, uncompromising and relentless. That’s our only hope of restoring sanity.”
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].