Indianapolis police, clergy discuss racial profiling at Indy Star public forum

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 4, 2014) — The issue of racial profiling by police officers has become a very hot topic around many dinner tables and even out in public.

A discussion Thursday with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Rick Hite, local business people and other members of the community, hopes to end some of those thoughts.

The concern of racial profiling has been the heated topic of national discussion after cellphone video that captured a New York City police officer doing a choke hold on a man who later died. That officer was not indicted, and angry people pounded the streets of New York in protest.  The news came after the news in Ferguson, Mo., where a white officer killed black teen Michael Brown.

So, have Hoosiers lost confidence in police and the judicial system?

“I think that, in most cases, it works, so if those officers weren’t indicted, then there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute them, so then I have to think you have to trust that things are done right,” said Jon Cory.

Then, there are folks like Michael Grant who think otherwise.

“I think there’s a definite disconnect with cops and just the African American citizens here,” Grant said.

That disconnect was exactly what this panel at the Indianapolis Star’s forum, “Building a safer city: racial profiling and establishing trust” wanted to address. More than 100 people showed up to hear Chief Hite say it’s about building relationships. He says that’s a focus especially with new officers.

“We want them to spend time with you in the community, but we also want you to come inside the department and spend time with them as well and grill them in terms of asking them pertinent questions because there’s a lot of hurt in this room,” Chief Hite said.

Indianapolis-native, now an event promoter and marketer, Amp Harris knows about building relationships. Without it, he says the world will remain divided.

“If I was a police officer, if I was working a particular beat, I want to go to that beat and I want to get out and go to McDonalds and I want to see the kids and see what they’re thinking,” Harris said.

Chief Hite says it’s about getting to know individuals and knowing them by name in order to build trust.