A Meeting with Gregory Meriweather
I had an opportunity to meet another member of the community interested in sharing his perspective with me. Similar to previous occasions, I was "introduced" to Gregory Meriweather through Facebook after a post about the City-County Council's Republican Caucus' first proposal of the year. A proposal in which a Commission will analyze information gathered from criminal justice experts, community leaders, and other stakeholders and to recommend policy changes. Additionally, the Commission is tasked with identifying the disparities that disproportionately affect the Urban Community.
Gregory, who is the Strategic Initiative Liaison for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, spoke to me in a way that challenges conventional wisdom; he is a forward thinker. Gregory is passionate and believes in doing what holds people accountable.
My overall objective to meet was to do what an excellent Elected Official is responsible for doing, listening. I was allowed to meet with someone passionate about this City like I am, who also has a different perspective than I do. Likewise, I have been meeting with people in the community on a frequent occurrence since being elected, and it is an enriching opportunity.
Law Enforcement Messaging
One of the topics we discussed is Law Enforcement messaging that is perceived by the Urban Community. The example that Greg used was "Click it or ticket" VS "Buckle up for safety." One of the messages is intimidating the other is protecting. Greg made a point about the message, and how it creates a dialog for the officers. For example, an officer standing outside a bar when an intoxicated citizen walks out. The Officer has two options: to try and prevent the persons from getting in the vehicle by notifying and protecting or waiting for that person to get in their car and apprehend him. Are we putting our officers in the line of duty with the mentality to "lock em up?" I believe the perception from the Urban Community would be a resounding, "Yes"!
This was an interesting topic of conversation, Greg told me the Urban Community believes they are over-policed. Greg disagrees with that notion and used the example of going to Carmel to experience what it's like to be over-policed; if you call the Police, they show up. He believes we have a reactionary police culture, the communities need to build relationships with police officers, they need to be in barbershops, basketball courts, gyms, clubs where there are no disputes to be settled. He also brought up police cars can't just be sitting, that's monitoring, not policing, policing is relationship building. The officers need to know they are just as much part of the community.
"This is a mom, this is a dad; people are not putting in the human factor - Help bring change on both sides" - Gregory Meriweather.
I have had the opportunity to take a lot of Uber rides for the type of employment I have; during those rides, I am always talking with the driver. On one occasion, during the campaign, my driver was a retired IMPD officer. I asked him how do we solve this crime problem we have? His response was similar to Greg's, Police need to be part of the community and building relationships in various places through the community. This Officer made a follow up to that statement, that not all Officers have that in them, and its something very difficult or at all possible to train Officers on, he was under the notion you have it, or you don't.
One additional thing I recently learned about, correlating to the perspective that the Police are just sitting around monitoring. Earlier this week, I was at a meeting talking with a woman who works at the 911 Response call Center and a Police Officer who is retiring after 32 years of service. They informed me about the process behind an officer filling out a report after he makes his "stop" the new system prohibits the officers from quickly finishing up a call and moving on to the next, it takes them 30 - 45 minutes to fill out a report. The Officer explained to me the old way where he could call it in over the radio, and someone on the other end could assist them in the documenting, a process that was much more expedient and kept the Police productive.
Gregory shared a quote from Oprah with me "One's ambition is attached to their exposure."
He said this to me, "In the black community, the people we call real are the ones who went to prison." The message he wants to deliver is "Real has a purpose - It's not just saying I am trying to impress. Real trying to do something with the time I have left. When I am gone, I want to leave something worth living for."
He continues; when people come home from prison, this is not a second chance; this is the FIRST chance, they have options for rehabilitation programs and people who want to help. His experience as s guy who had knocked on doors to build brands and careers he learned, most black guys before they went to jail never got the first chance, they got told no over and over. Their first yes was someone handing them drugs, and when they got done selling their drugs, they were given money and told a good job. The individuals who are being affected don't get told a good job and given some money in the same sentence. We live in a society where saying a good job does not really exist anymore.
This was an example of Celebrities buying out ToysRUs or paying off everyone's layaway at Wal-Mart. Sure its a nice gesture but think about what's going on. These actions directly feed the wealth gap; the corporations are getting richer, but it's not doing anything for the community. It's a temporary feel good but not a long term solution.
Greg shared with me that he believes we don't go after C Students; its the F's that get attention. Who is allowed to go into schools and talk to the kids, who is their dialog directed at? He said he wants to see people get what they want out of life. However, most people in the Urban community don't know what politics are or understand the process.
His thought is, we need to change the way we think about academics in the City. Big schools are teaching to be athletes but not citizens, he has the example of Ben Davis athlete Steve Holman (Batman ) who went on to Michigan State and later prison. He thinks we need to do a better job to recognize the bands, the artists, there are many forms of success schools should help students find the person they are.
One of my favorite ideas he brought up that I believe is very feasible was a Valedictorian Day in the City. Every school in the City, whoever is academically number one, they are honored for their achievements. Put their names in the papers, have a parade, show how important they are! We do it for our City's great athletes, why not do the same for academic minds, an excellent way to promote brilliance.
"Meriweather Validictoriian Day"
I had such a great time listening to Greg, he is full of wisdom. He does a great job of articulating his experiences and visions. The two hours I spent with Greg flew by, and I am grateful for the experience to learn from him. Because of this experience, I will be able to shape conversations differently and look at problems from another perspective. There are many languages to politics, and if you only speak one, you will leave out the rest. Thank you, Greg, for helping me see from another perspective.
Thank you all for reading,