Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Republican candidate Jefferson Shreve sparred Sunday afternoon on issues that directly affect the city’s Black community.
The candidates addressed a range of topics, including charter schools and food insecurity, but issues of policing and gun violence took center stage. While Hogsett, a Democrat, focused on his record and named city initiatives, Shreve criticized the mayor over city shortfalls and he proposed alternatives.
Sunday’s debate, which was broadcast on several local radio stations, was organized by the African American Coalition of Indianapolis, or AACI, and the Indianapolis Recorder. It was likely the city’s first mayoral debate designed to focus on Black issues, AACI Chairman Willis Bright said.
Much of the discussion focused on the relationship between police and the Black community.
Politically active ministerial group Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis in August called for the resignation of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Randal Taylor after a string of instances in which an IMPD officer shot civilians. The candidates were asked how their administration would ensure Black neighborhoods feel protected and served, not policed.
Hogsett said his administration was the first to prioritize police accountability. IMPD patrol officers have all been issued body-worn cameras, he said. The city has implemented a use-of-force policy and maintains a use-of-force board and a general-orders committee with non-police majorities.
IMPD is slated to receive 750 dashboard cameras as part of a $1.5 million investment in public safety technology. The department currently has only 25 vehicles with dash cams.
“It’s clear from our record that this administration listens to the community,” Hogsett said. He said he would continue to work with AACI and the Black Church Coalition on initiatives that improve police accountability.
Shreve said police accountability and community relations is important to all communities. He criticized the Hogsett administration for being slow to adopt dashboard cameras and said a Shreve administration would accelerate the process.
Both candidates said it is important to maintain healthy police-community relations, but Shreve said doing so isn’t possible due to the current shortage of more than 300 police officers.
Both the Hogsett and Shreve campaigns have rolled out similar gun-control plans that include rules to require permits to carry guns in Marion County, increase the gun purchase age from 18 to 21, and ban assault weapons. Both plans would require the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly to shift its stance on local communities implementing gun laws that vary from the state’s.
Shreve said he would leverage his relationships with legislators in the Statehouse to get his proposed measure passed. He also has said he would pass a law affecting only Marion County to implement these measures.
He criticized the Hogsett administration for introducing its gun-control proposal after the 2023 state legislative session had ended.
“When the council and the mayor introduced something like 10 days after the General Assembly adjourned its last long session, it was theatrics. It was optics. It was toothless,” Shreve said.
Hogsett noted that the Indianapolis City-County Council has passed a gun ordinance that is contingent on the state law change. He denied that the measure was theatrics.
“I think that’s a very important step we have taken,” Hogsett said.
His administration has also passed an ordinance that places three city attorneys on detail in the U.S. Attorney’s Office to deal specifically with federal gun crimes.
Last week, Indiana State Police Supt. Doug Carter called for a comprehensive review and overhaul of the Marion County judicial system after a 19-year-old was released on bond following a crash that killed three people. The candidates were asked what they would do to solve such an issue, even though the mayor has no direct authority over the Marion County prosecutor and elected judges.
Shreve noted that outspoken Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder seconded Carter’s call for reform. He said the city’s next mayor must “use the mouthpiece of the 25th floor” to call out issues involving the oft-discussed “revolving door” of offenders in Marion County.
“The mayor’s got a voice, an outside voice, and needs to use it,” Shreve said.
Hogsett said he has used the bully pulpit of his office to call for gun regulations, which ultimately led to the council’s passage of both gun-control measures and funding for additional attorneys.
He said he leaned on his past experience to give credibility to his management of the city’s crime efforts.
“Having served as the United States Attorney, the federal prosecutor, I know something about criminal justice and prosecuting people to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
Gun regulations are universally supported and need to be passed, Hogsett said, which is why he’ll be a strong voice at the Indiana General Assembly to support lifting the preemption.
Hogsett and Shreve are scheduled for two more debates:
WISH-TV Channel 8 will host an hour-long, live televised debate Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. And WXIN-TV Channel 59 will host a televised debate Oct. 26. at 7 p.m.