Black Caucus On Holcomb Racial Equity Plan: Good Start, But Jury's Still Out

Aug 19, 2020

Rep. Earl Harris, Jr. (D-East Chicago) discusses the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus's justice reform agenda during a recent press conference.
Credit (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus say Gov. Eric Holcomb’s announced steps on addressing racial inequity are a start – but still far from what’s necessary to fix the state’s pervasive problems.

Holcomb outlined about a half dozen specific actions in a statewide address. That includes equipping all frontline state troopers with body cameras by next spring, a public dashboard with racial disparity data and a new cabinet post: Chief Equity, Inclusion and Opportunity Officer.

Black Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago) said much of that lines up with the caucus's justice reform agenda. But he added that last item exemplifies the need to wait on a true verdict for Holcomb’s plans. It only works, Harris said, if the right person is in the job and empowered to make change.

“Have that community connection where they can have honest conversations with the community and then take that feedback and work with the governor’s office and agencies to make those correct types of changes,” Harris said.

Harris said he’s disappointed Holcomb hasn’t responded to the Black Caucus’s suggestions of banning chokeholds, no-knock warrants and racial profiling. Administration officials say they’re seeking an outside review of law enforcement training and use of force broadly – but that review will come from a law enforcement group. Harris said there should be civilian involvement.

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And he said greater advocacy on all these issues is required, from all corners.

“This is not just a Black Caucus issue; this is a 'you’re a citizen in the state of Indiana' issue,” Harris said.

Democrat Dr. Woody Myers – the first Black major party candidate for governor in the state’s history – called Holcomb’s proposals “much too little, much too late.”

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.