INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Growing up in Lawrence, even though his father was a career army man and he was mentored by a policeman, Frank Gunn II recalls feeling a bit of anxiety as a teen whenever police officers were called to his neighborhood.
“You gotta be able to communicate with the community on both sides, and police gotta be able to communicate with the community, and community gotta be able to communicate with the police,” said Gunn during a lunch break from his training as an IMPD recruit at the department’s east side academy.
Gunn and 51 fellow recruits were undergoing implicit bias training, a program that recognizes basic impressions everyone carries about the world and the people around them.
The former high school football player and IU wrestler learned the lessons of his training.
“In the black community where things are portrayed in one way and looked at one way, we’re also learning about how the community can see us as police officers as well,” he said. “I’m able to bring both groups together and bridge that gap and be a bridge builder within the community.”
That community could very well include the apartment complexes surrounding the intersection of East 42nd Street and North Post Road, a few miles south of where Gunn grew up and a few miles north of where he is training to become an officer.
Mayor Hogsett and IMPD Chief Bryan Roach walked the Meadowlark Apartments for more than an hour, meeting neighbors, hearing their stories and learning what it's like to live in one of Indianapolis’ most violent communities where five murders were recorded in January.
“In my opinion it's gotten better,” said Kianna Henderson as she pushed a stroller along with her two children as the chief and the mayor walked. “It's gotten a lot better actually. We done went from lots of shootings, like I said, mobs of fights and all that, to practically not any type of criminal activity going on out here, so I’m pretty happy we see the police pretty frequently.”
Kianna said both neighbors and officers need to understand each other and their respective implicit biases.
“What we don’t understand about each other is what we have to do to survive out here. Even the police when they come out here, they have to put up a survival mechanism because they never know the type of situation they coming into and we have to have a survival mechanism out here because of all of the crazy stuff that goes on out here.
“We get shootings, and when there is a shooting sometimes when the police come out here they treat everybody like everybody’s done the shooting and really sometimes we just want answers, sometimes we don’t understand what’s going on,” she said.
Gunn agreed with the young mother he may someday called upon to keep safe.
“We’re actually here to service them, we’re here to protect them,” he said. “We tell them why we’re here--why we’re asking them to do this because if you don’t tell them why, that’s what most people want to know. ‘Why are you arresting my loved one? Why are you arresting her? Why are you here?’ If we don’t tell them why, then that’s the reason why everything ends up getting escalated,” said Gunn.
Last fall, IMPD commanders were taught to recognize implicit bias and became trainers. Eventually, the entire 1,700-member department will have the training.