Indiana Black Legislative Caucus unveils priorities for 2021 session

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("Indiana State Capitol Building" by Drew Tarvin, CC BY 2.0)

Accountability was a word used often by members of the Indiana Black Legislative Conference Thursday afternoon, as they outlined their priorities for state lawmakers for the 2021 legislative session, on the steps of the Indiana Statehouse.

“We have a lot of work to do and we must begin by decriminalizing Jim Crow-era laws, creating an inclusive hate crimes law and establishing a study of the criminal justice system,” said Caucus Chairwoman Robin Shackleford.

She said a study of both the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems would be to understand their impact on Black communities.

Shackleford also said the Caucus wants lawmakers to get rid of cops in schools.

“All children need care versus conviction. They need more guidance counselors and social workers to help them through difficult times and provide the support necessary for their success,” she said. Shackleford also said that abuses to young people should be studied, and that marijuana should be decriminalized.

But, the agenda focuses more heavily on police reform and training than anything else.

“A law enforcement officer has to be a health care worker. They have to be an EMT. They have to be a counselor,” said state Rep. Greg Taylor. He noted that people in each of those professions have to be evaluated and held accountable in a variety of ways, and said he believes police officers must also have to get that continuing education and evaluation.

“We should evaluate their conduct. We should train them on a yearly basis.”

Shackleford said the Caucus’s agenda is aimed at more transparency, but in some cases is aimed at eliminating some current police practices. She said the study on criminal justice would apply.

“It is an active look at the hyper-militarization of SWAT teams and local police departments who use their power against young protesters who have the right to express their concerns,” she said.

Shackleford said racism must be studied as a public health crisis.

“It is now or never,” she said. “In the midst of a pandemic and with our current political climate, it is the perfect time to rally the troops and demand legislation that will promote a safer, more equitable Indiana for not only the Black community, but for all.

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