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Commentary: Willful ignorance in Carmel

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Commentary: Willful ignorance in Carmel

Carmel Police Chief Jim Barlow and Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard have decided to be willfully ignorant when presented with data about a disparity in the number of tickets given to Blacks when compared to whites.

Oseye Boyd

Oseye Boyd, Editor of the Indianapolis Recorder

If you’re unfamiliar, earlier this week I-Team 8, the investigative team at WISH-TV released the results of a study on whether race plays a role in the number of tickets issued by Central Indiana police officers. They provided a statistician with court records from 11 police departments. What they found isn’t surprising if you’re African American: a disparity exists. The police department with the largest disparity is Carmel Police Department. Some may say there’s no surprise there, either.

I can’t say I expected it to be Carmel, but I sure wasn’t shocked. I just expect smaller cities or towns to be really strict on obedience to traffic laws — especially for outsiders (according to the movies, anyway). And, Black people are outsiders in Carmel. The number of Black people living in Carmel is 2.5%, yet the number of tickets issued to Blacks is more than 33%.

They pretty much dismissed the findings. It was the equivalent of a hand wave to shoo someone away.

“I think our officers are trained to look at violations, not individuals, and I truly believe that’s what occurs,” Barlow said.

The evidence states otherwise, but OK.

Add to that, Brainard’s comments: “I think it’s people who aren’t familiar with Carmel and what’s happening in Carmel today. You know, they have a perception from 20, 30 years ago that has stayed and we fight that. I think we’ve been fighting it for a long period of time, but I think that perception is ending.”

No wonder you’ve been fighting so long, you’re sabotaging yourself with comments like this.

Yes, Carmel has changed since 1996 when a Black Indiana State Police officer sued the city after being stopped on his way home. But not so much because 20 years later the city settled a lawsuit in 2016 when a Black man said he was racially profiled by Carmel police. If my math is correct, 2016 was three years ago, not 20 or more.

Brainard touted the work they’ve done with the ACLU and NAACP to address disparities. That’s fine and dandy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to be done. It surely looks as though there is.

He says these perceptions are old, but not to the ones affected by the disparity. They’re clearly telling you they still feel Carmel isn’t always welcoming, and the data proves their perception is reality.

I can’t even say I’m disappointed in Brainard’s and Barlow’s reaction and dismissal. It’s a pretty typical response when one receives uncomfortable information. Race, racism and unconscious bias are uncomfortable topics for some people. What I find annoying is instead of listening and realizing there’s more work to be done, the knee-jerk reaction was to discount the information because they don’t believe it to be so.

I have to give Brainard credit. He stuck to his version of the story and dug in deeper. It wasn’t enough to say the data is incorrect and so are Black people’s perceptions. He offered this gem of a comment: “A large portion of our Asian population are Indians, which, through a car window would appear to be … a dark skin color. We talk with those folks all the time and they — I’ve never gotten a complaint they’re pulled over at any greater rate than anyone else.”

Excuse me, what? So, Brainard uses the experience of one racial minority to refute the experience of another? How does that analogy even make sense? It’s so preposterous that you just have to laugh. While I’m sure Brainard believes he isn’t racist, at the very least that comment proves how little he understands racism, and the fight to change Carmel’s perception is far from over.

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Since 1895, The Indianapolis Recorder has been a major voice for our local community, the state of Indiana, our nation, and now internationally. From the beginning, the Recorder has been an advocate for those who could not express their thoughts or concerns; we've also been a supplier of truth and justice. 

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