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by Chris Dilworth
There’s an old saying, “if you want to know a nation’s priorities, look at their budget.” Indianapolis’ Democrat majority City-County Council made their priorities clear last week when they approved a $7 million increase to the Indianapolis Metro Police Department for a total budget of $261 million—despite fervent calls from the people to defund the department. This increase in police funding represents about one-third of the city’s entire 2021 budget, the most money allocated for any department in the city.
Continued increases in police funding have benefited literally no one but the police themselves, and the politicians who cynically use Black lives as cannon fodder so they can say they have been tough on crime. This allows politicians to prioritize allocating larger sums to police budgets to the detriment of social programs that are essential to achieving a more equal society.
The City-County Council declaring racism a public health crisis is nothing more than empty symbolism. If Black lives actually mattered to this mayor, councilors, politicians and others in leadership, then it would be reflected in the city’s budget. It would be reflected by enacting policies that materially improve the lives of Black people in this city, otherwise the statement is meaningless. And as we can see, the leadership of the city of Indianapolis is unwilling to do anything more than make statements.
Purportedly, this increase is necessary to combat and/or solve violent crime. However, the statistics show that homicides continue to reach record levels in Indianapolis. And historically, IMPD only solves about four of every 10 homicides. While homicides have gone up, crime in other categories is actually down everywhere else, but police budgets continue to increase. So if the IMPD is not stopping crime, and they are not solving crime, and most other crime is in decline, then why should taxpayers give them more money?
Recently, the Indianapolis Star completed a year-long investigation into IMPD dog bite incidents that found 243 people were bitten—roughly one every five days—which is the worst among 20 cities across the U.S. that were also examined. IMPD justifies the deployment of the dogs because these people resisted arrest, yet 65% were unarmed and not acting violently. Police are commanding dogs to bite people for low-level, petty crimes such as sleeping on a sidewalk, shoplifting, or routine traffic stops. Moreover, more than half of the victims were Black and of those bitten under the age of 18, three-fourths were Black
From the murders of Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose and continued police terror, to increasing costs in housing, and to the lack of employment and public healthcare, it’s clear that Black neighborhoods in Indianapolis have been defunded for decades. Not only are Black lives not a priority for this city, but they are not even on the radar. That is to say, Black lives do not matter in the city of Indianapolis and “our” elected officials don’t plan on changing this.
It is time to stop defunding education and social programs that benefit the least among us so that police can have the latest weapons technology to engage in police terror against Black citizens. What makes people safe is a good paying job, a warm bed to sleep in at night, living without want of food, and having your basic needs met. Public housing, public schools, youth employment programs, and permanent adult employment programs are just a few examples of what police funding is given priority over.
Most crimes committed in Indianapolis stem from social economic conditions, and the only way to be serious about reducing crime, is to address the root causes. If this city truly wanted to solve crime, then it is time to employ a different strategy.
More police does not and has not made us safe—nor is what the people demanded all summer long. We must demand the city refund the Black community and other oppressed communities that have been overexploited and deprived of resources for decades. We must demand an end to racist police terror. We must demand IMPD be demilitarized and defunded so communities of color can thrive, instead of fighting to survive!