INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Several times a week, American cities from coast-to-coast are racked by frustration and violence in the wake of police action shootings.
Minneapolis. Charlotte. El Cajon. Ferguson. Baltimore. Baton Rouge.
Missing from that list is Indianapolis and local leaders tell CBS4 it’s not a surprise as they work behind the scenes daily to foster the type of relationships that are expected to calm a community in the midst of turmoil.
“No place is immune from frustration and anger,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett during an informal briefing with reporters. “Hopefully we will avoid the same kinds of challenges.”
IMPD Chief Troy Riggs and Deputy Mayor David Hampton agreed that cooperation within their ranks and throughout the community can help let cooler heads prevail if police officers are forced to take a life to protect themselves or others.
“We’re under no illusion this couldn’t happen here,” said Hampton when asked about the protests that have led to street violence in other cities. “Indianapolis is not a, ‘riot city.’
“We know who to call,” he said. “We’re doing things to help to prevent those things from happening.”
Hampton said with his Clergy Response Team and network of contacts in the community, he is able to reach organizers and activists to share with them information about police activities or protest logistics to keep street demonstrations from getting out of control while respecting the participants’ rights to freedom of assembly and speech.
Often those community and church leaders are buffers between officers and protestors, said Chief Riggs.
IMPD has opened its doors to various community members, said Riggs, to participate in data briefings, Chief for a Day activities, shoot/don’t shoot scenarios and training, national policing forums, neighborhood meetings, beat patrolling updates and feedback on investigations.
Riggs said IMPD would not be backing off on sweeps and targeted enforcement operations, often at the behest of neighbors, to drive drug dealers off street corners and to raid their sanctuaries.
Such sweeps have netted more than 1,000 arrests since May and have likely pushed many drug deals and confrontations behind closed doors.
Riggs said detectives actively monitor social media to gather intelligence on the 40-60 people investigators believe make up the “core group of violence prone” individuals in Indianapolis.
IMPD also has a “vigorous response plan” for potential social unrest and disasters, according to Riggs.
The chief recalled a pair of police action shootings, one on the eastside that lead to the death of an unarmed man fighting with a patrolman and the other this summer when a homeowner was shot by an officer who mistook him for a carjacking suspect, as examples of incidents that could have led to violent community outrage but were quelled by the almost immediate release of information.
The addition of an overnight police commander to take charge of advising the public in the first hours after a shooting, even before dawn, helps keep the community in the investigative loop, said Riggs.
Assistant Chief Randall Taylor often spends his days expressing to the community that retaliatory violence will not be tolerated. Like Tuesday, when he attended a funeral service for a shooting victim in order to express IMPD’s concern for the family.
Hampton highlighted the Hogsett Administration’s approach to solving “root causes” of poverty and social disorder that lead to violent frustration often touched off by events such as police action shootings.
IMPD’s partnership with Gleaners to feed the hungry year round, city attempts to find work for 1,000 teenagers in the summer and social outreach to neighborhoods devastated by murder and violence, such as Gladstone Avenue where two people were found shot to death earlier this month, are seen as opportunities to respond to community issues before crisis hits.
Riggs said Indianapolis’ approach is gaining national attention and his officers will host officials from Chicago and Louisville searching for solutions in the coming weeks.