On Thursday, June 29th, 2017, shortly after 2:00 am, IMPD officers stole the life Aaron Bailey, a 45 year old unarmed Black man. After being pulled over for a supposed traffic violation and being detained for nine minutes, at some point during that stop, Bailey sped from the scene before he crashed into a tree near the intersection of 23rd and Aqueduct streets. The impact was severe enough to deploy the driver’s side airbag. After that crash, two officers (Mike Dennison and Carlton Howard) fired “multiple” rounds at the vehicle, hitting Bailey. He was taken to the hospital where he later died. The story of unarmed black men being killed by law enforcement is not an unfamiliar one. However, in this particular case, no statement was issued by the officers involved, yet they sought legal counsel and immediately went into hiding while on paid administrative leave.
Beyond the outcry from the community, the apparent racial bias in this case made was abundantly evident when compared to a parallel incident which took place the day before. On Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 shortly after 1:00 am, a 30 year old white man, was pulled over for a traffic stop at the 1400 block of W. Raymond St. He then reportedly fled the traffic stop, and eventually wrecked the vehicle he was driving in the 1400 block of S. Richland St. where he allegedly continued to flee on foot.
“The driver, identified as 30-year-old Derek Hicks, allegedly refused to pull over and a short chase occurred. He reportedly wrecked the vehicle he was driving in the 1400 block of S. Richland St. where he allegedly continued to flee on foot. He was arrested shortly after by police.” http://fox59.com/2017/06/30/impd-arrests-30-year-old-man-after-police-chase-on-near-southwest-side/
Hicks was charged with resisting law enforcement, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, resisting law enforcement defined as using a vehicle to commit the offense, driving while suspended, possession of marijuana, leaving the scene of an accident and operating a vehicle without ever receiving a license.
The differences here in these two instances are very clear. Derek Hicks will receive his day in court. Aaron Bailey will not. Derek Hicks was an armed and fleeing suspect. Aaron Bailey was unarmed. Derek Hicks survived his encounter with IMPD. Aaron Bailey was buried on July 8th, 2017. Derek Hicks is white. Aaron Bailey is black.
The outrage further steeped due to the fact that none of the tropes used to justify the murder of unarmed black men and women were applicable here. Aaron Bailey posed no conceivable threat as he had crashed his vehicle into a nearby tree, had been hit by two impacts, first the tree and then the airbag, and was then fired on from behind by IMPD officers “multiple” times. This in no way meets the use of force continuum, but does meet the standard of excessive force.
On the afternoon of Thursday, June 29th, IMPD administrators, local clergy, and community members which included DONT SLEEP president Dominic Dorsey were brought together to discuss the evidence of the case. At a follow up meeting on Friday, June 30th, a set of demands were hand delivered to IMPD Chief Bryan Roach, by Dorsey on behalf of DONT SLEEP entailing immediate action steps that he and other administrators can take to proactively impact the safety of black lives. The entirety of that list is detailed below:
- A revision of training curriculum – i.e. use of excessive force including specific weapons such as (Taser, pistol, police dogs, etc.), as well as the handling youth and/or juvenile delinquent offenders, drug addicts and the mentally ill.
- Extensive mandatory training in the following areas: Nonviolent Crisis Intervention, Implicit Bias and Racial Equity Training
- IMPD to issue a statement on “use of force” standard affirming that officers will use the minimum force to subdue people. An annual report on deadly (and excessive) force & disciplinary outcomes. We want IMPD to always report officer involved shootings to the Department of Justice, as well as making it available and searchable to the public.
- IMPD to make all department policies summonses and arrest data public with demographic data
- A Citizens Police Complaint Board (CPCB) that is constructed by open election and not internal appointment by the City County Council, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) or the Mayor
- An annual community review on the use of Hot Spot Policing
- Residency Requirements for Law Enforcement Officers as well as a re-institution of foot patrols as an alternative to “community policing” viewed through the lens of the Cop Next Door housing program.
- Institution of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) or similarly constructed arrest-referral program in Indianapolis – diversion efforts designed to redirect low-level offenders engaged in drug or prostitution activity to community based services instead of jail and prosecution
- A Citizens Police Complaint Board (CPCB) that is constructed by open election and not internal appointment by the City County Council, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Mayor.
- Authority over disciplinary decisions and penalties to be shared with the CPCB and the Chief of Police and not the Chief of Police exclusively.
- The elimination of a grand jury process in legal proceedings regarding officer involved fatalities and in-custody deaths.
- Indiana Governor to issue executive order to establish special prosecutor to oversee all criminal investigations regarding officer involved fatalities and in-custody deaths.
- Legal Defense for Police Action Shooting Deaths to be provided exclusively through the FOP Legal Defense Fund and not tax-payer dollars. Officers who elect not to join the FOP should pay for defense from their own financing.
These items were lifted directly from a near two year petition authored by DONT SLEEP in 2014. Many of these items, Chief Bryan Roach addressed indirectly in a press conference two days later…
These comments directly addressed the document in part, but not in its entirety.
In the days that have followed, IMPD has invited the FBI to conduct a parallel investigation as well as vowed to review training and increase transparency… but we’re interested in immediate accountability, beginning with the termination of officers Mike Dennison and Carlton Howard.
Even then, that’s not enough. We want criminal charges filed against both officers. In both the meeting on Friday, June 30th and again on Friday, June 7th at a Community & Race Relations meeting held at the Indianapolis Urban League, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry has been duly informed: We want no grand jury. We want a special prosecutor.
Curry has declined to offer either. This is unacceptable, as we have seen countless instances where grand juries have collectively returned verdicts of No Bill in incidents of police killings of unarmed black citizens in our country. A change MUST be made.
We want justice! We demand it! This Saturday, July 15th, we will gather on the south lawn of the Indiana Statehouse to demand Justice for Aaron Bailey. We will be hearing from several local organizations in support of these efforts as well as the family of Aaron Bailey.
This is the beginning of a marathon. The attainment of justice in America for people of color is never a sprint. It is far too often delayed and almost always denied. We will not quietly wait for the wagons to circle and bias investigations to yield no tangible results. We will be heard.