Community members question police Merit Board decision clearing officers who fatally shot man

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Community members gathered Friday night to decry the police merit board's decision to clear two IMPD officers who shot and killed an unarmed man, and call on city leaders to take further action.

It was the second night Faith in Indiana held a gathering, this time at Monument Circle downtown, holding signs, saying prayers and making pleas.

"Tonight is to keep the fire burning about this issue that's facing our community and about what happened with our merit board yesterday to hopefully to impress our mayor who has said great things that we want a conversation and to begin to know what is it going to take for us to have a due process that actually works for black people," Juan Barnes, the deputy director of Faith in Indiana, said.

Last June, police said Aaron Bailey led them on chase after a traffic stop. He crashed his car. Two IMPD officers said they thought he was reaching for a gun near the console when they fired and killed him, but no weapon was found.

No criminal wrongdoing was found. IMPD Police Chief Roach, however, recommended the officers be fired.

Thursday, after days of testimony, the Merit Board voted to clear the officers, allowing them to keep their jobs. The board is made up of four members appointed by the  previous mayoral administration, two members appointed by the FOP and one member appointed by the council.

According to the mayor's office, they serve four years term and cannot be removed or replaced from office by newly elected officials.

Following the decision, Mayor Joe Hogsett released a statement saying in part:

"The fact that Chief Roach's experienced, well-reasoned decision to terminate two officers has been overturned by the votes of five individuals highlights a Merit Board system that must be changed if we are to continue building bridges of trust between our brave police officers and the communities they proudly serve."

Some gathered on Monument Circle said they wanted to hold the mayor to his word, questioned the process and the merit board itself.

"I'm gonna also hold him to his word. He expressed concern about the council, I mean about the merit board he expressed a need for changing some of the aspects of it it doesn't make any sense a new administration comes in and is forced to keep the appointees on the board from the old administration," Brishon Bond with Faith in Indiana said.

Frustration wasn't only seen at the gathering though.

Following the merit board's decision Thursday, the Indianapolis F.O.P. president called out police and city leaders, calling leadership decisions inappropriate. IMPD responded, calling the comments inflammatory.

Friday the FOP released a statement in response to the mayor saying in part:

"Due process and a (transparent) system of checks and balances are essential for disciplinary review in police departments. Otherwise, it opens the door for politically motivated decisions from elected officials to infect policing practices."

"The Chief has got a very difficult road to hoe, because he publicly wanted these officers fired. That's going to cause problems within the rank and file," SPEA public safety lecturer Jim White said. "But the Chief can rectify this situation by going back and talking to the rank and file and saying I made a decision  based upon the facts. The merit board made a decision based on facts. The facts are now that these officers are coming back."

Leaders with Faith in Indiana said they would like to meet with the mayor and police chief.

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