Forum held to find solutions to city's crime

A town hall forum was held to discuss crime in the city.
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Kris Kirschner/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A week after downtown shootings injured ten people, most of them teenagers, a forum was held to talk about solutions to crime. But the town hall meeting that was supposed to bring a community and police together instead may have torn them further apart.

It was billed as a meeting to seek solutions to violence and issues with police.

"Right now, there is a sense in the African-American, in the Hispanic communities, that police are against them," said City-County Councillor Jose Evans.

But the gathering at the 2nd Baptist Church Saturday instead became a forum of frustration.

"We have totally been disrespected," said a woman on the panel.

The discussion did touch on some solutions to the crime problem.

"I think we have to be more creative in how we deal with our children, instead of taking them down and dropping them off," said a person in the audience.

"There is only so much officers can do. [They] can't keep asking officers to raise our children," said another man.

Mostly, it was a venue to voice disappointment in what many in attendance believe is injustice by police and a lack of respect by the city. While there were uniformed officers in the audience, although invited, there was no one from IMPD or the mayor's office on the panel.

"All of us are tired and confused, but we want everybody to come to the table," said Bishop T. Garrett Benjamin.

Councilor Evans, a Democrat who's running for mayor, organized the meeting and said IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski and Public Safety Director Dr. Frank Straub planned to attend, but was forced to cancel.

"Director Straub and Chief Ciesielski were asked to participate in the panel. They both declined due to a previously scheduled meeting," a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.

Saturday's six-member panel included the mother of 15-year-old Brandon Johnson, who alleges police brutality during an arrest last May. The teen's attorney was in the audience.

"Why not show up? Why hide, why dodge the issues when the only thing to happen is the issues and problems get worse," said Evans.

Whether the city was hoping to avoid a legal or political battle played out in a church hall. Some at the forum feel they did more damage - than damage control. The spokesperson for the public safety director says they expect to announce new strategies for community policing in the next couple of weeks.