Many Indiana University Police Department officers are honoring the five officers killed in Dallas last week by wearing black mourning bands across their badges until the last of the five officers is laid to rest.
Killed by a lone sniper during a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally, the officers’ deaths followed two controversial shooting deaths of black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana. The deaths intensify already heated socioeconomic and cultural debates about systemic racism, poverty, police brutality, gun violence, domestic terrorism and other issues.
These issues are discussed and debated nationally and within our local communities. Here are some comments and observations shared by several IUPD leaders:
- “Black lives do matter,” IUPD-Bloomington Chief Laury Flint wrote in a letter shared at a campus gathering. “IUPD officers have taken an oath to protect and serve, and we take that oath seriously. We value cultural diversity – it is one of the main reasons Indiana University is so unique and special. … No one should be afraid to walk with others or alone on or off campus, and we want everyone to be comfortable and confident enough to call 911 anytime there is concern.”
- “Many police see the Black Lives Matter movement as ‘anti-policing,’ but it’s not,” said Wayne James, chief at IUPD-Northwest, in his hometown of Gary. “Some people in the movement may be. But the people who actually care, they aren’t radical; they just want you to hear them. Black Lives Matter members at the vigil on Sunday said they don’t want to see police killed. For people to show up on a Sunday at 6 p.m. in Gary – that is huge.”
- “We cannot sink into an ‘us versus them’ mindset regarding our relationship with citizens,” IUPD-Bloomington Capt. Andy Stephenson wrote to his officers. His letter was shared with IUPD officers on all campuses. “We cannot allow these cowardly terrorists to accomplish their goal of increasing the divide between police officers and the citizens of our communities. Rather, we must unite, not only with one another, but with every citizen and organization in our communities to ensure that all are working together in unison to curb the violence, misunderstanding of the police role, and the distrust that some members of the community have of police officers.”
- “The partnership between IUPD and the community is crucial,” Flint wrote. “In order for law enforcement to be truly effective, police agencies must have the active support and assistance of their citizens. We do not disregard high-profile incidents and allegations of police misconduct because they did not take place in Bloomington, and we want to maintain a safe community for all. This requires ongoing concerted effort, and I can assure you that IUPD is actively and continuously working on relationships in our community daily.”
The prospect of increased hostility or violence aimed at police makes a challenging occupation even more so. James said officers need to rely on their training, and police leaders need to make sure the necessary training is available. It is important to him, for example, that his officers have training in conflict de-escalation.
Stephenson wrote: “As I’ve said many times, traditional policing does not work and is ineffective in regard to satisfying the needs of our communities. We must be proactive, outgoing and positive in our policing philosophy and approach to daily activities on patrol.”
IU Public Safety is part of Public Safety and Institutional Assurance, which falls under the Office of the Executive Vice President for University Academic Affairs and the Office of the Vice President for IT and CIO.