IMPD Asst. Chief on state of violent Crime: “It’ll wear you out sometimes…but I’m optimistic”

Originally published in the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper.

The chasm between police and civilians is deep-rooted, painful and sometimes difficult to correct. But if you speak to Randy Taylor, the IMPD Asst. Chief of Investigations, he seems at ease — like a sage, because the goal in the end is about “mending hearts and minds.”

In 2015, Indianapolis made national news by reaching the top ten most dangerous cities list. In addition to 144 criminal homicides, increased rates of rape, aggravated assaults and robberies were among the worst in the country, according to Law Street Media and FBI statistics. Already this month, there have been four shooting deaths reported in Indianapolis.

To put a figure on how many funerals Taylor attended in 2015 may seem trivial (the number was approximately 70) but it does show the idea that law enforcement can be more than a collective that wipes the streets clean after blood has drenched the cement.

Asst. Chief of Investigations Randy Taylor said violent crime is mostly related to handguns.

For some, the solution to crime is community policing. To others, that’s just another buzzword. In either case, Taylor said he and fellow officers want to see the murder rate decline in an effort to encourage long-lasting peace.

“It comes down to people and attitudes,” he said, referencing IMPD’s initiative to be socially active in communities. “I don’t know if we can point to our message,” he said, “but I’d like to believe it helps.”

Even so, he and other researchers recognize there is still more work to be done, especially since Indiana has one of the highest rates of Black homicide victims in the country, according to a study by the Violence Policy Center, and some of this can be related to the prevalence of handguns.

Paul Helmke, director of the Civic Leaders Center at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, said the aforementioned crime rates are something “we should be embarrassed by.”

“Generally, I think it shows that we probably have too many gangs and too many drugs and too many guns in this state,” he said. On that front, the next question would be to determine how poverty, culture and the economy factor in the study of violence, also.

IMPD has a homicide solve rate inching towards 70 percent. In comparison, Detroit and Cincinnati’s rates were abysmal at approximately 35 percent, respectively, according to NPR. These rates, Taylor said, could be related to IMPD’s ability to find suspects fleeing the state and the push to encourage cooperative witnesses.

Visit NPR.org to search public crime statistics in various cities.

The idea that witnesses possess valuable information for detectives, which has been repeated by Police Chief Troy Riggs, Capt. Craig Converse and Taylor, among others, suggests that the “no snitch” culture may be diminishing in some circumstances. Nevertheless, change does not appear to be uniform, especially since data cited from Feb. 2016 concluded that cases with Black victims are less likely to be solved.

These statistics, according to local news outlets, indicated that approximately 86 percent of all white victim homicides and 48 percent of all African-American victim homicides were considered cleared by the IMPD Homicide Branch since Jan. 1, 2011. Likewise, in 2015, 115 of the 144 criminal homicides were Black, a ratio of nearly 80 percent.

For IMPD, moreover, the challenge will be dealing with the troubling cycle of violence and incarceration in predominantly Black neighborhoods. Taylor said some people know about particular crimes, but won’t confess in fear of retaliation from peers. However, before it reaches a fatal stage in the first place, he said the key is to remind citizens that “pulling a gun doesn’t have to be the solution.”

“What we’ll continue to do is get the message out,” he said, “whether it’s through clergy for those who are spiritual, or statistics for the young and old. Yes, there are systemic issues…Chief Riggs makes note of that too,” he added, “but we want people to realize how bad it is to pull that trigger.”

So as the situation compounds in the wake of all forms of violence, various sides are left to bow their heads in a stinging disgust. Yet, Taylor remains cautiously optimistic, even when it is easier to stick with the negative storyline.

“It’s like a card game, sometimes you get a bad hand, sometimes you get a good hand,” he said. “It depends. Either way I just don’t want to see people get killed,” he summarized. “I don’t care what their background is.”