INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion County Sheriff’s Office hosted a first-of-its-kind event for the department. It’s called “Through My Eyes,” where Marion County deputies and community members switched spots and went through simulated traffic stops.
The goal is for both law enforcement and community members to learn what can be done by both groups to make a traffic stop easier and safer for all involved.
“We want everyone to be able to walk away and say it’s just a routine traffic stop,” said Marion County Sheriff Chief Deputy Reggie Roney.
The night started with an honest conversation about how both sides feel during traffic stops. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office walked community members through the steps officers take when making a stop and community members shared their own experiences and feelings.
“The main thing is for everybody to be able to do things that will alleviate the stress between both sides,” Roney said.
Roney said Sheriff Kerry Forestal came up with the idea one morning. The office has worked with the Inter-Denominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Indianapolis and Martin University to set up this conversation and exercise.
Lionel Rush, the president of the Inter-Denominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Indianapolis, said this is an important partnership they’re hoping to expand upon.
“It’s a start on the way, on the road to communication between the community and police departments,” he said. “We think it’s a good idea, we think it’s one where if we start to see things through the other’s eyes, we start to talk to each other, instead of at each other.”
Michael Mitchell, a former officer and now Criminal Justice Professor at Martin University, was also there to offer expertise and conduct a survey about how citizens feel during traffic stops.
“I hope they understand why the police officers sometimes approach vehicles the way they do because of the dangers that can happen and do happen,” Mitchell said.
Ardell Bell was one of the community members at the “Through My Eyes” Thursday night. He wanted to learn more about what officers do during a traffic stop and wanted officers to learn how he feels.
“The language that they use, the posture that they have when they pull you over,” Bell said. “A lot of times you just feel like an officer is looking down on you.”
During the conversation, Bell talked about the fear he has during a traffic stop. He said he hopes both sides can work on ways to decrease the anxieties of each other.
“How do we break the ice? Because if I am getting pulled over, I am uncertain, too,” Bell said.
After the conversation, the deputies and citizens went into the role reversal exercise.
“We’re going to have the officers sitting in the car and we’re going to try and generate the same stress level if they’re an ordinary citizen being stopped by a police officer,” Roney said.
Bell turned on the lights in the patrol car, got out, asked for license and registration and explained the stop.
“The reason why I stopped you is you had a taillight out,” he said.
The man he was talking to was a Marion County deputy, playing the part of the citizen, an experience Roney is looking forward to for his men and women.
“We want them to know how it feels and the stress that they’re under,” Roney said.
MCSO and the Inter-Denominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Indianapolis, want this to be the first of many “Through My Eyes” events and conversations.