INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– When City County Councilman Brian Mowery unveiled his plans for an Emergency Public Safety Summit Monday, he was shocked by the angry reaction from some crowd members on the Plaza at City Market.
“It was a shock at first, but then I stepped back and thought about it and then I realized it’s personal for them but they’re not attacking at me. They just have so much passion and so much emotion tied into this that they are clearly very passionate about this,” said Mowery, a south side Republican.
Mowery was chastened but not deterred by the reaction to his plan.
“I think this is a promising start showing that people do want to be engaged, they do care, they want to have their voices, they want a seat at the table to talk about this because they deal with this every day.”
At the Indianapolis Urban League, Mark Russell, Director of Advocacy & Family Services, saw the angry response to the Summit announcement.
“The reception and the roll out was a bit troubled. It didn’t go as smoothly as it probably could have,” he observed. “We know some of the reasons but anyone wanting to step up to the plate and wanting to do something, we think that’s helpful and that should not be dismissed arbitrarily.”
Circle Up Indy Founder James Wilson was in that crowd, too.
“They kept focusing on how the officers felt. I heard that a lot,” said Wilson, a former inmate. “What they’re also not looking at is, if we’re building a new jail, that jail’s gotta get full and if we keep pushing on locking everybody up, how are we fighting the system we keep trying to go against, right? It’s actually enhancing the system.”
Stung by the criticism but determined to get his best intentions back on track, Mowery said he is reaching out to those critics and seeking the help of established organizations with track records in convening community conversations to launch the anticipated summit next Monday.
“This is to discuss crime prevention and intervening before crime happens and that people can be involved with crime and violent crime,” said Mowery. “I think we heard at least two people yesterday speak about how they have been incarcerated and involved in the system and they are now out and thriving and overcoming. I want to hear from them. I want to know what they did and how they can help us replicate that across the city and show people that there is a way.”
Wilson, a former Peacemaker for the Hogsett Administration’s Office of Public Health & Safety, would be one of those people.
“I understand their perspective of what they were trying to accomplish and get to. I understand that. What bothered me is that we’re doing it at the expense of the people playing politics. That’s what it's all about. It’s a political game being played.”
Last Wednesday night, less than two hours before four young people were found shot to death in a northeast side apartment complex, City County Council democrats, on a party line vote, defeated a republican proposal authored by Mowery to establish a commission on criminal justice outcomes.
“It’s a community family feud, right?” asked Wilson. “There’s a community family feud going on in the city of Indianapolis. Some of them are family feuding because they want to be on top. Some of them want to be in office. Some have many different aspects and things. But in the end what I see that it does, it hurts the people out here.”
“This has had a disproportionate impact on the black community and we need to recognize that and it's very unfortunate that such a critical issue became mired in controversy,” said Russell. “The Indianapolis Urban League would support such a summit in concept because it is a crisis in our community. Sixty-two percent of the people that have perished have been black males. That’s a disproportionate impact in our community and we need to find out why.”
Russell was citing homicide statistics going back four years in Indianapolis.
“So such a summit would be helpful we believe. The difficult part of that is gathering folks to maintain a sense of purpose and come out with concrete solutions and answers so the Indianapolis Urban League would be supportive of any effort to unify our community,” he said.
Mowery accepted Russell’s business card at the end of his interview with CBS4.
“I’ll be giving them a call as soon as we get done here,” he said.
Wilson said he was willing to give the Emergency Public Safety Summit a chance to succeed.
“I will say this: You can hear all day. It's what you do with what you hear,” he said. “That’s the question.”