INDIANAPOLIS — On Tuesday, Governor Holcomb held a press conference addressing equality and inclusion in our state. His announcement comes less than one week after the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) held a press conference outlining their justice reform policy agenda items for the 2021 legislative session. This IBLC reform agenda was created after extensive input by members of the Black community and other constituents across the state after multiple virtual town halls were held.
The governor’s announced reform steps close some gaps in state agencies and police, but do little to guarantee concrete justice reform at all levels of the state and leave out many IBLC demands. Bans on no-knock warrants, chokeholds and racial profiling were glaringly absent from the announcement.
The Indiana Senate IBLC members released the following statements in response to the governor’s announcement:
Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis)
“Governor Holcomb is correct: our state has a history of racism and discrimination,” Sen. Breaux said. “Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that the governor’s actions go far enough to affect true, meaningful change for Black and brown Hoosiers.
“Over two months ago, the whole IBLC stood with our chair Rep. Robin Shackleford as we asked the governor to implement simple and immediate steps toward a more just future. I didn’t see evidence that the Black community was properly consulted in the governor’s latest address. He needs to only look at the comprehensive agenda that the IBLC has provided him to determine what the next steps in justice reform should be.”
State Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis)
“For months, the IBLC met with Hoosiers, community leaders and the governor’s office to discuss the changes we need to see in our state as we move forward,” Sen. Taylor said. “We heard from thousands of Hoosiers, and from those voices, we were able to develop a comprehensive and detailed list of policy changes for the next legislative session.
“While I applaud the governor’s efforts to bring forth solutions to address some of these issues, there is much more to be done. The governor cannot make policy changes by himself. It’s up to the General Assembly to accept his concerns and considerations, and I would ask the governor to be steadfast in reaching out to Republican leaders President Pro Tempore Bray and Speaker Huston, as well as Rep. Shackleford, to garner support for the policies he wishes to advance. If the governor truly wants to bring forth meaningful change, he needs to support policies that actually accomplish his stated goals.”
State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary)
“Some will be quick to praise Governor Holcomb today,” Sen. Melton said. “However, I am instead choosing to use cautious optimism after hearing his announcement. I will never root against policy that could help Hoosier families, but today’s announcement did not go far enough to address the systemic and institutional racism that exists in Indiana.
“Am I hopeful that Governor Holcomb will finally prioritize Black and Brown Hoosiers with his upcoming agenda for the 2021 legislative session? Of course, and I will be ready to get to work when it’s time to make substantial change. But, as a Black elected leader in Indiana who has time and again been promised action and advocacy behind the scenes only to be let down when political courage is necessary, I have learned to not hold my breath when working with the Republican supermajority. Until Governor Holcomb and Indiana Republicans stop viewing issues of race as a box to check and actually decide to get to work, we’ll be circling the drain on an issue that should’ve been resolved decades ago.”
State Senator Lonnie Randolph (D-East Chicago)
“Unfortunately, the governor’s address stopped short of showing his commitment to addressing the systemic issues that continue to disadvantage Black Hoosiers in our state,” Sen. Randolph said. “While the governor spoke eloquently about our state’s history of racism and inequality, the solutions he’s proposed to address those deep rooted issues fall short of what has been repeatedly proposed by the IBLC. When we are dealing with systemic problems, it’s imperative that leaders listen to those most affected by disparities and use their ideas to take bold action and keep people of color safe.
“It’s surprising that the governor claims to recognize the extent to which inequality and racism have impacted Black lives, but somehow still doesn’t take recommendations from the IBLC and other minority groups. Our caucus has an extensive list of demands from Black Hoosiers across the state, including banning chokeholds, consequences for police using excessive force, outside reviews of police conduct and more. If the governor really wants to promote equality and inclusivity, he would listen to the voices of Black leaders and Black Hoosiers, instead of sidestepping us to create his own solutions. I hope the governor meant it when he said he would expect the legislature to work on issues of police brutality when we go into session, because I will be there with these bills ready.”