The past few weeks have been a difficult time in our nation and have exposed the need for self-reflection in individuals and communities. I’ve been asked repeatedly and rightfully so, about my views on the issues of racial equality, police reform, and their significance in our own community.
We’ve witnessed peaceful protests and riots. Much has been written, and much has been said as issues that have long simmered below the surface finally reached a boiling point. Ultimately, we have seen both the best and worst of humanity on display, but long overdue conversations have begun in communities across America, including here at home.
I’ve been listening and watching closely as I absorb and process as much as possible in order to approach these challenging issues in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. My goal has been to process the myriad of issues independently, in the context of Crawfordsville, rather than be influenced by a narrative from those only wishing to divide us.
I will begin by saying that I have the utmost confidence in the men and women of the Crawfordsville Police Department. They are highly trained professionals who work tirelessly to keep our community safe. The dedication and passion with which they serve illustrate their love for Crawfordsville and the people of this community. It is important to keep in mind that officers are human, just like you and I, and are just as susceptible of human error. Thus, it is necessary to have robust systems in place to ensure officer training and conduct are reflective of policies in which the community has solid confidence.
We strive to maintain a system that monitors officer conduct and performance in a manner that is fair to both officers and the citizens they serve. All citizen concerns are thoroughly investigated. The Metropolitan Board of Police Commissioners, a bi-partisan board, comprised of local citizens, approves policies and, is responsible for all hiring, promotions and, disciplinary matters. Thankfully, history has shown that our own officers sound the alarm if they detect something amiss within their own ranks. While it is unfair to judge any group within our community by the actions of groups in other communities, it is equally unfair to judge our officers based on the actions of officers elsewhere. To automatically assume that officers in Crawfordsville act in the same egregious manner as those in other communities is merely perpetuating the type of stereotypical behavior we seek to change.
To promote accountability among citizens and officers alike, the City of Crawfordsville invested in body cameras for all officers a few years ago. Every interaction with the public is recorded, providing invaluable information to assist in addressing any concerns that arise. If a concern is brought to our attention, it is thoroughly investigated. If a problem is found, it is addressed.
However, all of that being said, after spending considerable time listening to local citizens, I can’t help but to be smacked by the reality that some members of our community don’t have full confidence in the system that is in place. That is an uncomfortable reality with which we must come to terms by having an open and frank dialogue that results in substantive steps to ensure all segments of our community are equally confident in our officers and the system overseeing them. We must be willing to accept the fact that not everyone in our community shares the same experience, and we must commit ourselves to understanding those different experiences. I’ve spent much time specifically speaking with people of color in Crawfordsville to better understand their experiences in this community. Those conversations have been enlightening and very helpful, to say the least. These points were clearly illustrated when I learned that black parents in Crawfordsville find it necessary to have “the talk” with their children about how to properly conduct themselves during interactions with law enforcement to reduce the risk of being treated aggressively because of the perceived threat they might present. It was, to be honest, a kick in the gut, as a parent, to learn that other parents in our very own community felt it necessary to have this talk with their children. I’ve faced the normal things a parent worries about during their child’s teen years and early days of driving, but thoughts like these had never entered my consciousness. This represents a clear reality that we can and absolutely must do better in our own community so that everyone shares equal confidence in our system of law enforcement.
All of this begs the question, what steps do we take locally to bridge the gaps that exist and ensure that our system of law enforcement accurately reflects the wishes of this community in a manner in which all segments of the community have full confidence?
I will outline several steps I’m taking but want to emphasize that we all have a role to play in ensuring that our community is governed and laws are enforced in a manner that is fair, equitable, and without racial bias. Racism doesn’t merely exist in one segment of a community, or one particular profession, and we must all raise our own awareness of the subtle manner in which it makes its way into our everyday lives.
I am proud of the way in which local citizens with concerns have expressed themselves through peaceful protests and by contacting their elected representatives. It speaks to the heart and soul of this community that we discuss our concerns in a respectful, caring manner while remaining focused on identifying solutions. However, that in and of itself isn’t enough. It is critical that we all engage in meaningful, frank, direct conversations with others to gain a better understanding of differing perspectives and how to create solutions. To be clear, I am not referring to merely speaking with those who think and look like us. If you are only discussing these issues with similar, like-minded people, you are not furthering your own understanding of different views or how to help someone who sees it differently understand how their words or actions may hurt others. You alone can change the hearts and minds of your peers, and it’s far more likely done through direct one-on-one conversations than anything else.
For my part, I am firmly committed to taking the following steps towards ensuring all members of our community have equal confidence in our police officers and the system that oversees them:

1. I am immediately forming the Mayor’s Special Commission on Racial Equality. This group will be comprised of a diverse cross-section of citizens from our community and will be charged with evaluating the current climate of equality in Crawfordsville and evaluating the Crawfordsville Police Department’s current use of force policies. They will recommend policy changes, local ordinances changes, and new channels for citizen input, as well as shape a more engaging community education and outreach program. This group’s recommendations will be reported directly to the mayor, city council, and police commissioners.
2. The City of Crawfordsville will undertake a thorough review of all Crawfordsville Police Department’s use of force policies.
3. The Crawfordsville Police Department’s use of force policies will be made available to the public.
4. The current board of police commissioners consists of three members. This structure is defined by state statute from the time the board was created. However, we will investigate the ability, within the statute, to expand the board to five members, thus allowing for greater citizen involvement.
5. All officers and public safety personnel will complete training designed to raise awareness of implicit bias. The Crawfordsville Police Department is exploring options for acquiring this training, and it will be completed in a timely manner.
6. The Mayor’s Commission on Racial Equality, Crawfordsville Human Rights Commission, and the Mayor’s Office will host events for the community to express concerns and discuss suggestions for improving racial equality and confidence in our law enforcement system. The Special Commission will determine the scheduling of these events while working around timelines for lifting pandemic restrictions and social distancing guidelines.
7. The Crawfordsville Police Department will make officers available to engage the public in a series of community policing events designed to foster interaction and awareness between officers and the community they serve.
8. The Crawfordsville Police Department will take steps to ensure officers of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are more present at community events, ballgames, etc. to build confidence that the department is reflective of our community.

I frequently say that Crawfordsville is a very caring, generous community, and I truly believe that to be the case. I have met very few people with meanness or hatred in their hearts and know that people in this community would do anything to help their fellow citizens. We see that loving generosity displayed time and time again. The time has come, however, that in that spirit of love that makes this community great, we all pause to reflect on how our own actions or words -as subtle as they might be- can cause others to hurt and feel unwelcome or unsafe in this community we all love and call home. I implore every member of this community to reach out to others, engage in dialogue, listen to their concerns, and show the love for one another that I know exists. I am committed to doing my part, but real progress and greater unity will take all of us. Above all else, I ask that you speak up to point out any mistreatment of others in our community. In short, if you see something, say something. In closing, I leave you with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that has been resonating through my own mind recently and I ask that you consider its meaning to you as well. “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”