City of Lafayette working toward building trust with citizens of color

Mayor Tony Roswarski said transparency and trust are at the forefront for city plans this year.

Posted: Jun 30, 2020 8:55 PM
Updated: Jul 2, 2020 2:14 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- Mayor Tony Roswarski said transparency and trust are at the forefront for city plans this year. This comes in response to the recent racial-justice demonstrations that have taken place in Greater Lafayette.

"We're going to come out of this a better community then we came into this and I honestly believe that," said Roswarski.

Mayor Roswarski is looking forward to a more united community. This comes after talking with a group of Greater Lafayette advocates who work to address issues happening within Black and Brown communities.

Vanessa Pacheco, a member of a group called 'The Collective' was one of three people who spoke with the mayor this month.

"Everyone in this town can learn from the opportunity we got to sit down with our legislatures and with our public officials," said Pacheco. "It's that we can all engage with power in ways that motivate and create change."

Mayor Roswarski believes change is coming. He said parts of the conversation included uncovering some misconceptions about the Lafayette Police Department.

"A lot of people don't know what we already do," said Roswarski. "We don't teach a chokehold, we have a use of force continuum, we have a Civilian Merit Board where five citizens, not the chief, hire the policemen, fire the policemen, and promote or demote the policemen. We do racial-bias training, actually during a polygraph for new officers we ask questions about race and racism." 

Pacheco said the main focus of the conversation was finding ways to work toward building trust between city leaders and minority communities.

"Our local officials are really passionate about this notion of community policing, and the core component of that is trust so I do think they take seriously the idea that trust is broken down across this community and, particularly, across culture," said Pacheco.

"What they might think has provided solutions to that trust break are not the same things that we probably are looking for and the things that we're needing," said Pacheco. "What we need to be able to do is create that shift in talking about, what does trust mean for you? What does trust mean for me? And how does all the power that you hold impact the community? And what we've seen thus far is that it's not always been a healthy and positive relationship."

Mayor Roswarski said the city supports the discussion of changes happening at the national level. He said they're also interested in making local changes by broadening their recruiting tactics.

"Most police officers men and women are great police officers risking their lives to keep all of us safe day in and day out dealing with some very difficult situations, but we all know that there are some police officers that have done things that they shouldn't, so talking about creating a national registry so they can just jump from police department to police department unidentified, I think things like that are a good step," said Roswarski.

"We are very interested in opening up these lines of communication, learning if there are things we can do better, I've asked some of the groups I've talked with, can they help us come up with some ideas on minority police recruiting, we go to colleges, we go to schools, we go to job fairs but is there something we're missing that would help recruit people of color," said Roswarski.

Both Pacheco and Mayor Roswarski say the conversation they had in June is only the beginning.

"I'm looking forward to the continuing discussions with the different groups, I think we've got a great community here, we've always been problem solvers and found ways to come together and I think we'll continue to do that," said Roswarski. 

"The things that block us from being able to make meaningful change is just not knowing where to start," said Pacheco. "We're a group of people who really believe that we can and that we can stand side by side and hold each other's hands while we figure out what does it mean to dream up a better future."

A town hall meeting for the community to meet with city leaders is being held on Saturday, Jul. 25 at the Tippecanoe County Amphitheater from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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