Community forum in Indy on Ferguson

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) –  The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, is sparking a discussion here at home in Indianapolis.

Law enforcement and members of the juvenile division of Marion County Superior Court, as well as the city prosecutor, held a forum Monday evening at Martin University.

The name of it? ‘Is Indy a Ferguson Waiting to Happen?’

Magistrate Geoffrey Gaither, with the Juvenile Division of Marion County Superior Court said they called it that, to get the community talking.

“It’s somewhat of a provocative title. But it was intentionally so. I’m trying to get the attention of the community,” said Gaither.

They say they’re holding the forum: to make sure there is a good back and forth discussion between the community and law enforcement, so what happened in Ferguson won’t happen in Indianapolis.

“I think everybody here knows what folks in Missouri are just learning. That is, if you don’t have conversations, you have problems,” said Juvenile Judge Marilyn Moores. “We believe in having conversations, and in addressing problems forthrightly, and not in trying to sweep them under the rug until suddenly there’s a lump so big we all trip over it.”

“At the end of the day, I want to make sure the community is informed, I want them to know what are their legal rights, and what are the legal wrongs,” said Gaither. “What should you do in a traffic stop, and what should you not do?”

On the panel for the forum: Chief Rick Hite, IMPD; Superintendent Doug Carter with ISP; Vop Osili, City-County Councilor; Chris Reeder, Fmr. Dir. Citizens Police Complaint Board; Sheriff John Layton, Marion County Sheriff’s Department. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry sat in for Hon. Tanya Walton-Pratt, who couldn’t be there Monday.

The panel talked about a multitude of issues: early education, and helping folks to re-enter society successfully, the importance of transparency, and dealing with racial disparities.

“If we don’t address small issues, it can delay larger projects, larger issues. Long term relationships can be affected by one single small incident. It’s a series of incidents that cause crisis in our country,” Chief Rick Hite, IMPD.

“We can’t do this without you,” said Doug Carter, ISP Superintendent.

They also discussed the training of officers, the importance of public trust, and the fact that no one, including law enforcement, is above the law.

“We’re serious about this. We to make examples of those who are doing it right, and showcase them, as sure examples. But those who misstep, and overstep their boundaries, as the prosecutor says, there are consequences for that,” said Chief Hite.

The public was able to ask questions, to start that conversation. Some questions included, what is the root cause of crime? What are you doing to help young people? What is the training for officers? Others evoked applause and emotion, like one woman who stood up and pointed her comments directly at the panel.

“I have eight children. Most women know, we don’t tell our black sons, the same thing white moms tell their white sons,” she said.

Police say they’re hopeful this conversation, is just the beginning.

“I hope folks will look at this as an opportunity for change, to understand we have no control over what happened yesterday, but a whole lot of control over tomorrow. and now’s time to have that conversation,” said Superintendent Carter.

Officials also handed out ‘Know Your Legal Rights’ fliers, and say they’ll now decide on next steps for the conversation.

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