Indianapolis community leaders quit over mayor response to violence, riots

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INDIANAPOLIS — Community District Resource Councils are touted by Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration and IMPD as examples of neighbors working together with the city to address Indianapolis’ social and public safety issues.

One of the most effective groups was the IMPD Southeast District CDRC with programs that included launching E-sales safe zones, a youth academy, neighborhood walks, one-on-one family crisis interventions, town hall meetings, opiate forums and active shooter training.

But no more.

The eight-member leadership of the southeast side CDRC submitted a mass resignation letter over the past weekend, frustrated, they said, by what is perceived to be Hogsett’s failing anti-violence initiatives and the mayor’s response to two nights of looting, riots and arson that rocked downtown Indianapolis following peaceful protests against racial injustice and in favor of criminal justice reform during the last weekend in May.

“I think you start seeing things that are detrimental to the community but no one seems to want to hear what you have to say because they’re too busy working on political agendas,” said CDRC Co-Chair Dr. Chris Holland. “You don’t feel like your voice isn’t heard if you’re not saying the right thing.”

Indianapolis’ 2020 homicide totals have reached 100, weeks before a similar milestone was reached a year ago when the city was also on a record-setting pace during the final year of Hogsett’s first term after he campaigned be the city’s “Public Safety Mayor.”

“You see the violent numbers continue to climb and nobody says anything,” said Dr. Holland. “You see the city burned, looted, riots, I’m not talking about peaceful protest, you’ve been down there, I’ve been down there, you see the damage, people have been killed during that and nobody even wants to walk through the damage to look at that. To me that says, ‘I’ve either checked out some way or I don’t care.’

“When you can allow the city to be burned two nights in a row, and I have a struggle with that, and at least a good general will come out and check on his troops and walk the line, and you’re our leader.

“We really want you to come out and care for us greater than your political party.”

Mayor Hogsett made his only public appearance in riot-scarred downtown during a weekend rally of protesters at the Indiana Statehouse earlier this month and challenged them to hold him accountable for criminal justice reforms in the city.

“We needed his support and we needed him to speak up and I believe he failed not only our CRDC but also the citizens of Indianapolis,” said Debbie Conway, the co-chair who added her name to the resignation letter. “I believe we needed our mayor and we did not have this.”

The resignation letter (viewable below) was addressed to Toby Miller and Pastor Horatio Luster, co-chairs of the Community Response Team, an independent body that fosters communication between community groups, IMPD and the Hogsett administration.

“It was a surprise,” said Miller, “but we understand, based on some of our conversations with them, where some of their concerns and their misunderstandings come from and where their passions are and there was a lot of concern about the overall dynamic in our community and whether or not they could continue some of the work in the spirit of all the other things happening, whether it’s political or the commentary among other leadership, and they felt a little concerned about that.”

“We believe that particular CRDC has done some effective work in their community. They’ve been very effective,” said Luster who was also surprised by the mass resignations. “We refuse to allow it to do something that will discontinue the work that we do.”

This past Monday, Hogsett announced he was engaging the resources of the New York University School of Law to lead what he called an effort to, “re-imagine public safety” in Indianapolis that would include community participation.

“Grass roots organizations are critical to this,” said Miller, “so we want to get the voices at the table and say, ‘What did we learn? What did we see? What did we experience? What are the other community- driven recommendations and proposals that need to be platformed?’ And then we also share that as a part of our two-way communication and accountability that is an important word there.”

Miller said the CRT would prepare an after-action report on the events and situations that led up to the protests that evolved into violence May 29-31 and what transpired that weekend.

IMPD Chief Randy Taylor has also promised an internal review.

Hogsett also announced an “independent” investigation, “to look holistically at the law enforcement response to the protests,” according to an aide. FOP #86 President Rick Snyder told FOX59 News he hoped that review would also take a hard look at the role the mayor and his staff played in observing, advising or directing the city’s and IMPD’s responses as peaceful protests gave way to violence that resulted in millions of dollars of damage to downtown business and residential properties, more than 100 arrests and two murders.

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