Indianapolis clergy call for police chief’s resignation over lack of officer accountability

Indianapolis clergy call for police chief’s resignation over lack of officer accountability

A mourner lays flowers on April 11, 2023, near a photo of Herman Whitfield III, just outside Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s north district station in Indianapolis. Two Indianapolis police officers have been indicted by a grand jury in the death of Whitfield III, a Black man who died last year after being taken into police custody at his parents’ home. | Mykal McEldowney / The Indianapolis Star via AP

INDIANAPOLIS—Clergy is moving into action here to address both police crime and the high rate of intra-community murders. In a major step in the long struggle against criminal and deadly police actions, the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis has called for Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Randal Taylor to resign.

Concerned Clergy sees a pattern in the racist and criminal police murder of Herman Whitfield III in his own home during a mental health crisis, the police shooting of Anthony Maclin as he slept in his car in his grandmother’s driveway, the police killing of Joseph Stiger by running him over with a police car, and the police murder of Dwayne Gary Harrell as he fled.

Concerned Clergy have concluded Chief Taylor is responsible for “a lack of accountability among officers in the department” that creates the environment for these racist and inhumane police crimes.

“Chief Taylor continues to protect police officers at the expense of creating a culture of accountability within the department to the detriment of having an environment where officers do not feel the need to protect and serve the taxpayers who pay their salaries,” said Rev. David Greene, Sr., senior pastor at Purpose of Life Ministries.

Greene continued: “We believe in (a new chief) that’s going to create a culture that involves community relationships, obviously to address many of these issues, but will be firmly committed to improving the solvability rate when we consider the number of homicides and the number of non-fatal shootings.”

He called on Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett to begin a search for a new chief now.

Jake Watkins, chair of the Indiana Young Communist League and an activist in the struggle for justice for Herman Whitfield III, said:

“Indianapolis residents, especially Black and brown peoples, have a right to live without fear of being slaughtered at the hands of those hired to protect and serve. We support the Concerned Clergy call for Chief Taylor to resign.”

Watkins said the YCL sees “every initiative to stop racist police crime and end community murders” as important, including efforts to increase the rate of solved crimes and organizing for democratic community control of the police. “There are too many Black and brown bodies killed at racist police hands and because of poverty and the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Indianapolis police have a low rate of solving crimes in a city that has a large African-American, Mexican, African, and other migrants, population. As Katrina Pross reported on Jan. 31, 2022:

“Many working to decrease violence say mistrust between community [and] law enforcement contributes to many unsolved cases. Indianapolis has a clearance rate just over 54% for 2021, according to IMPD. A case is considered ‘cleared’ once an arrest has been made. No charges or convictions are needed for a case to be considered cleared.”

Rev. Malachi Walker of Great Commission Church of God in Indianapolis has direct experience in this matter. He tragically lost his 24-year-old daughter, who was murdered during a home invasion a decade ago. Her slaying remains an unsolved case. He says, “That’s just part of the system, the broken system I call it, that we kind of have to live with.” He continued, “I can say that it made me stronger, and now we’ll continue this fight out here.”

In recent years, Indianapolis has experienced a tsunami of murders due in part to the pandemic and to rising income inequality and desperation in working-class communities. There were 271 homicides in Indianapolis in 2021, breaking prior records. In 2020, there were 245 homicides. As of July 1, 2022, Indianapolis has a population of 880,621; 24.8% under 25, 57.7% white, 28.8% “Black or African American,” 10.8% “Hispanic.” The city’s neighborhoods are highly segregated.

Indiana is a “constitutional carry state,” meaning there are effectively no restrictions on who can buy firearms. According to Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears: “The fact that everybody is armed, or there’s a lot of people out there who are armed, heightens the tension in every single confrontation. And so because of that, I think people feel like they need to act, or they need to be the first person to use their gun, because I think the person that they’re having the argument with is also armed.”

Constitutional carry is an ultra-right initiative imposed on Marion County/Indianapolis by the mostly rural state’s legislature.

Building democratic community control of the police is another avenue of struggle to address the ongoing pattern of racist police crime and unresolved murders of Indianapolis residents.

Recognizing the long-term and systemic nature of racist police crime, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR) has said:

“This historic moment demands that Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano/Mexicano, and other oppressed communities in the United States give ourselves historic new rights and power. Our communities have the right to be free of police tyranny. Defending that right requires the power to control the police, instead of being controlled by them. Before we can talk about police reforms, communities first have to take power to control and reform the police themselves. That requires that we directly elect civilian police accountability councils (CPACs) who will defend our rights, independent of the political masters who today use the police to serve their ends.”

Community control of the police was won in Chicago by a NAARPR-led coalition of organized labor, churches, community organizations, and individuals.

Founded in the 1960s, the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis is a fellowship of pastors and other concerned citizens who describe themselves as “God-fearing people who believe injustice, racism, ageism, class-ism, and sexism to be contrary to the will of God.” The focus of their community work continues the legacy of the Civil Rights Movements of the 1950s and ’60s.

They believe that clergy’s crucial role “in our community was to be tested in identifying deplorable conditions and coordinating efforts to bring about desired changes.” This is the first time that they have called for a police chief to resign.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Eric Brooks


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