Police, city set to begin community conversations to merge divided path to peace

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The first conversation on community and police relations in Indianapolis will take place Thursday night.

These listening sessions were announced earlier this month, after a IMPD's Merit Board voted to clear the officers who shot and killed Aaron Bailey last June.

He was unarmed. That decision created outrage among some in the community.

The African American Coalition of Indianapolis, a  group of community leaders representing about 15 black organizations, say they are hearing firsthand the fear our neighbors feel following the Aaron Bailey shooting.

They released a statement outlining their recommendations for police reform and improving the civilian police merit board process.

Dialog on police and community relations is happening around multiple tables in the city.  But already, the African American Coalition of Indianapolis says the Fraternal Order of Police community campaign theme, "comply now, complain later" doesn't sit well with how they'd like to see those relationships play out.

"But also there is this other issue of killing black people with impunity. And right now, we're left in a situation where we've seen our system play itself out and there just doesn't seem to be justice," said AACI spokesperson Marshawn Wolley.

The AACI says they are consistently working to ease fears in the community. They say that includes conversations at school, home and church about how to properly interact with police.

"We are hearing a lot of fear in the community, a lot of concern about the legitimacy of our processes and whether or not our police department can protect us and I think that has to be a concern for everyone in the city," Wolley said.

The FOP says it has the same idea with its #ThinkBigger campaign working to educate the community about the do's and dont's of police stops.  The organization event adopted the theme "comply now complain later." But that approach is where the groups differ.

"Our conversations begin and end with rights they also include collaboration and cooperation but we're not some foreign land where we are expected to comply with some military force and complain later. We have rights and we will not be engaged in that fashion," Wolley said.

We asked FOP President Rick Snyder to define the program.

"Well, it really is what a lot of this discussion is revolving around, which is how do we insure that everyone departs from any police public encounters safely," Snyder said.

Snyder says he wants to see everyone come to the table to discuss what needs to be done and to hear different perspectives.

"This is where we're coming from. When we talk about fear and safety concerns and all those things police officers have those as well. I think it's important to remember every 52 to 60 hours an officer dies in the line of duty in this country," he said.

Both groups will attend the community listening session Thursday. It will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Center for Inquiry School 27. Everyone in Indianapolis is welcome. Doors open at 6 p.m.

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