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Community organizations respond to police-involved killing

July 6, 2017  | Indianapolis Recorder | Link to Article

Last week, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officers shot and killed 45-year-old Aaron Bailey following a short pursuit on the city’s northwest side.

According to IMPD’s statement, Bailey led officers on a short vehicle chase, which ended in the intersection of 23rd and Aqueduct streets after Bailey’s vehicle crashed. Two officers approached the vehicle and shots were fired, striking Bailey. He was taken by ambulance to Eskenazi hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. 

“The loss of any life in our city is a tragedy, and my thoughts and prayers are with all individuals and families affected by (the) incident,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett in a written statement. “Our residents expect that IMPD will stringently follow protocol by fully investigating and reviewing the actions that were taken.” 

Steve Carlsen, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral, released the following statement, which circulated on social media: “Aaron’s criminal history has been shared widely. Yet, Aaron was more than his record. He is a beloved child of God. He was a member of a community of recovery. He was a runner. He was a father and a friend. And to us at Christ Church Cathedral he was a neighbor, a guest and a volunteer. Aaron volunteered all day at the Strawberry Festival this year. He attended our Sunday breakfast for several months. He ran with our members in the group Back on My Feet. Many people mourn his death and are deeply troubled that another unarmed Black man has been shot — this time in our own city…”

It has been reported that at the time of his death, Bailey had a warrant out for his arrest and the monitoring device he was wearing was inoperable due to a dead battery. 

“There’s been a lot of conversation around the background of Aaron Bailey,” said IMPD Chief Bryan Roach. “(IMPD) was clear early on that that doesn’t matter. What matters is what happened in the moment.”

Following Bailey’s death, many members of the African-American community expressed outrage and called for an investigation to be conducted into the use of force. 

On June 30, the African American Coalition of Indianapolis released the following statement on the fatal shooting: “We mourn for Aaron Bailey and with his family and loved ones over the terrible tragedy surrounding the loss of his life. We have witnessed numerous communities across the country experience the tragic loss of unarmed community members in police action shootings that have raised the question do Black lives matter? While we respect the role of IMPD in our community, we have learned that Indianapolis is not immune from this terrible situation — where again a community is left with questions after the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black person. This situation has angered, frustrated and frightened people in our community. Compounding on the tragic loss of life is a sense that the justice system has failed many of the Black victims of police-action shootings nationwide. We have witnessed too many failed indictments in the grand jury process, which too often leaves larger questions about the efficacy of the criminal justice system for all citizens.

“For our part, members of the African American Coalition of Indianapolis have already expressed their concerns to IMPD Chief Bryan Roach. Lines of communication that have been open and meant to encourage community and police relations remain so, yet a trust gap persists. We will redouble our efforts to ensure that there is a just outcome for all parties involved. We are working with other concerned citizens on the broader issues of training, transparency, engagement and accountability. We are also calling for an independent investigation by a committee composed of law enforcement, civic leaders and concerned citizens. We intend to continue to monitor the investigation process and we expect IMPD and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to provide regular updates moving forward. We understand that the best of IMPD protects and serves. IMPD is our police department and it is incumbent upon us to work together to continue to define the type of police interactions we desire as citizens.”

Signers of the statement include the following organizations: 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, Alpha Alpha Omega Chapter of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc., Alpha Mu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Circle City (IN) Chapter of The Links Inc., Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, Exchange at the Indianapolis Urban League, Indiana Black Expo, Indianapolis Recorder, Indianapolis Urban League, Marion County Bar Association Inc. and the National Council of Negro Women, Indianapolis Section.

“Use of excessive force by law enforcement officers can no longer be tolerated in our communities. The lack of accountability erodes trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, which impedes the ability to solve crime,” said Chrystal Ratcliffe, president of the greater Indianapolis chapter of the NAACP in a written statement. “The NAACP is committed to a proactive approach to police shootings and all other forms of police brutality. Our solution to this egregious problem is accountability.”

Roach shared that since the incident he has had a number of conversations with community groups and late last week spoke with the FBI concerning the shooting. The FBI, he said, will share their findings with the Department of Justice should this become a civil rights case. He added that the department is being sensitive to the feelings of community residents concerning the objectivity of investigations regarding police-involved shootings.

“To the extent that I can, I understand those perceptions and that they are reality in a lot of people’s minds. I also understand that it’s being seen as a race issue, and we as a department need to do whatever we can to make that distrust and that fear, if it exists, on both sides go away.” 

Roach said that over the last year, the department and subject matter experts have been reviewing IMPD’s use of force policy. Additionally, they have gone through the process of having their training curriculum critiqued and are planning to roll out implicit bias training for all officers.

Over the weekend, dozens of community residents and some of Bailey’s family members gathered downtown for a rally to raise awareness of both his death and an effort by organizations like DON’T SLEEP to garner an independent investigation into his death.

Satchuel Cole, vice president of DON’T SLEEP, said the purpose of the demonstration was to let law enforcement officials and others know the gravity of their dedication to this cause. Cole shared that a petition has been shared with IMPD leadership and that a number of conversations have been held between the organization and the department since the shooting.

“We are making some progress there,” she said. “We actually came up with the petition in 2014, so this isn’t anything new. We’ve been gaining signatures on it for quite a while now and obviously trying to get IMPD to acknowledge the petition so that they could bring about changes,” she said.

The “Equity or Else: Accountable IMPD Policing Reform” petition has 790 signers so far and calls for: a revision of officer training curriculum, mandatory training in nonviolent crisis intervention, an annual report on deadly (and excessive) force as well as disciplinary outcomes from said force and, in the place of a grand jury process, a governor-issued executive order to have a special prosecutor oversee all criminal investigations regarding officer involved fatalities and in-custody deaths, among other requests. The complete petition is available to view on naptowndontsleep.org

“We wanted (demands) in writing because we want IMPD to take us seriously and know that these are the changes we are seeking. Also, it is very transparent so that the community can go online and see exactly what we are asking and can give us critiques if so needed,” said Cole.

She also noted that a YouCaring.com account was created with the goal of raising $3,000 for Bailey’s funeral expenses. As of Recorder press time, a little over $1,300 had been pledged.

Funeral services for Bailey will be held on Saturday, July 8, at 10 a.m. at New Day Pentecostal Church, located at 1058 Miley Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46222.