Shannon Williams

In June, Aaron Bailey, an unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by two Indianapolis Metropolitan police officers. 

Eleven shots were fired. Four of the bullets hit Bailey.

Bailey’s family and community members wanted justice. 

 This week, a special prosecutor declined to prosecute the IMPD officers, citing self-defense.  

With the exception of the victim’s name, the number of shots fired and the references to IMPD, those four sentences could be used to describe nearly all of the police-action shootings of unarmed Black men in the United States.

So while there are countless people, including myself, who are disappointed in Prosecutor Kenneth Cotter’s decision, we are not surprised. 

So, what’s next? 

Well, it depends on who you ask. 

Some people would prefer to ignore the obvious problem.

Others might tell those who are upset to “just get over it.”

Some will use this instance as an opportunity to continue the fight for accountability and reform. 

I choose the latter. 

IMPD is conducting its own administrative review of the Bailey shooting to determine if the officers will face any form of discipline, specifically relative to excessive force. And Tuesday, Mayor Joe Hogsett asked IMPD Chief Bryan Roach to expedite the process “so that an administrative decision can be rendered as quickly as possible.” 

So now we wait. But while we wait, people can still be engaged. There are people and organizations like DON’T SLEEP that are out there advocating on a continuous basis. However, their numbers are small. They have all sorts of followers on social media and tons of “likes,” but when it is time to attend a community meeting or a peaceful protest, the number of their supporters who attend pales in comparison to those who “like” them on Facebook. My point is, it will take more than a small few to make substantial change. More people need to get involved and show up during key meetings and forums.

However, while activism is a great way to demonstrate one’s beliefs, there is going to have to be a culture change within IMPD — and other police departments throughout the country. That change will have to be implemented and held to standard by key people, people who truly have the power and authority to make positive change occur. In Indianapolis, that person is Mayor Hogsett. 

I like Hogsett and I truly believe he is a man who stands by his word. I also think he is a man of integrity and strength of character. The way he addresses the very serious concerns of the Black and minority communities will be telling. One of the primary concerns for minorities is police accountability, or the lack thereof. 

There is a deep distrust of law enforcement that exists in Black and brown communities. Sadly, much of that distrust is warranted. 

It will take strong, courageous leaders like Hogsett — who often reminds me of John and Robert Kennedy — to put procedures and processes in place that not only sound good, but also are actually being adhered to by officers. 

This clarion call is not necessarily just for the officers involved in the Bailey case because, quite frankly, after reviewing Cotter’s full report, I think it will probably be difficult to terminate officers Carlton Howard and Michael Dinnsen. My clarion call is for the amenability of every officer, because the fact of the matter is, the problem with police accountability in Indianapolis existed long before any of us ever heard the name Aaron Bailey, or even Michael Taylor.

Given the flawed criminal justice system and the mistrust that people of color have for police officers, Hogsett and his counterparts nationwide have a tremendous task before them. I think our mayor can be the one to make impactful and positive change. I also believe that the way he addresses the dysfunction between law enforcement and the community will be part of his legacy in Indianapolis.

Like the Kennedys that I associate him with, I hope he can deliver on true promise.

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