Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett this week each made crucial announcements—the first about racial-equality efforts and the second about downtown safety—that we wholeheartedly welcome, even as we’re disappointed they didn’t come sooner.
But we know—and we hope the mayor and the governor know—that actually making progress in these key areas will take sustained effort. And because of that, we are willing to grant some latitude about how long it took for these leaders to act in the face of cries for help from the communities affected.
More than two months after racial-equality protests erupted in Indiana and across the nation, Holcomb finally addressed the issue in detail on Aug. 18, announcing plans to equip Indiana State Police troopers with body cameras by next spring and to create a cabinet-level position in his administration to focus on equity and inclusion.
Holcomb said he has been talking to Black business owners, church leaders, college presidents and law enforcement officials for weeks to better understand what changes he needed to implement. He said they told him to think about the big picture and get at the root of inequity, instead of only reacting to the symptoms.
As a result, his new chief equity, inclusion and opportunity officer will work to identify shortcomings across state government. “In short, this cabinet member will help every state agency raise their game,” Holcomb said. “I’m confident this is the right first step.”
And it is just that. A first step. Once the equity officer identifies institutional racism and other problems that affect people of color, the real work begins. We believe the Holcomb administration is up to solving those problems and we look forward to the governor proving us right.
Hogsett, meanwhile, announced that the city will spend $750,000—funneled through Downtown Indy Inc.—to increase safety downtown.
That’s in part a reaction to the riots—and about preventing future ones. But it’s also about the increase in overall violence that has occurred across the Mile Square (and the city), including problems along the Central N and at or near City Market.
The money, which will be spent from the city’s downtown tax increment financing district, will pay to quadruple foot and bike patrols of off-duty police officers downtown—from about 20 hours a week to about 80—and to launch a safety ambassador program that will employ civilians and police cadets to assist visitors and business owners while providing the police with an extra eye in the city core.
The city is also adding mobile cameras and paying to expand a network of street-level cameras at businesses.
These are worthwhile efforts. But we urge the city to take additional action if it’s not enough. Four times the current bike patrols, for example, might still provide too little coverage. The city might need five, six or even 10 times more patrols. It might still need more cameras, too.
And if that’s the case, the city must find the resources to do what’s needed to ensure downtown remains a safe and vibrant place to work, live and play.•
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