Four police officers sat before the public last night, ready to serve by answering questions in an open forum at City Hall.
The officers present at the event — “A Community Conversation” — included Bloomington’s Chief of Police Mike Diekhoff, Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain, Sgt. Pam Gladish from the Bloomington Police Department and Rueben Marte, a captain with the Indiana State Police.
Many members of the public stood crowded in the back, the chairs all filled in front of them.
Some had general questions. Some, like Ghangis DeDan Carter, had personal questions directly relating incidents with the Bloomington Police Department.
Carter, in a suit and bowtie, stood up straight and spoke into the microphone. He began to speak of an incident three days prior when he felt he was being tailed by a car.
Carter is African-?American.
“It was around Martinsville,” Carter said. “I decided that I was going to go to either the Bloomington Police department or IU Police Department.”
Carter never made it to ?either location.
Before he knew it, he said, he was being pulled over. Carter said he was pulled over by at least 8 vehicles. His son sat in the back seat.
“I complied because I didn’t want to die,” Carter said. “I was told my license plate was registered as stolen. I did, in fact, report my vehicle as stolen. I didn’t know it was my responsibility to report it as not stolen after ?getting it back.”
Carter said he put his hands outside of the window and waited for instruction.
“I was told to get on my knees, and I was cuffed,” Carter said. “I think the ?punishment didn’t fit.”
William Hosea spoke of his experiences as an African-American parent.
“I tell my son (that) you have to work twice as hard to walk away from a traffic stop with your life,” Hosea said.
Marte, who said he was one of few African-Americans on the state trooper force, said he understood.
“I, too, have had that conversation with my kids,” Marte said. “Even now when my kids go out, I worry.”
Marte said that in situations of confrontation, officers share the same concerns as civilians.
“We have to go home to our families, to our wives and our kids,” Carter said.
Diekhoff addressed a general complaint of excessive force by police officers.
“I’m not sure it’s an option to use less lethal options in a situation with deadly force,” Diekhoff said. “Each situation is going to dictate an ?option.”
All the officers emphasized a commitment to de-escalation and stated a desire to avoid violent ?conflicts at all.
“If you start an encounter with the utmost respect, then it will go well,” Marte said.
Gladish agreed, but spoke to human weakness.
“We are all a product of our past, and we are all bringing it with us,” Gladish said.
The forum was scheduled to end at 7:30 p.m., but the amount of people lining up for the microphones pushed the meeting 30 minutes over schedule.
One Bloomington resident stood to voice a concern but, before stating it, expressed his gratitude for the event.
“Thank you for doing this,” he said. “I think we’d all like to see this again.”
Applause filled the ?auditorium.
Many people left quickly. Some stayed to chat with officers. The reactions seemed mixed.
Marte tried to end on a hopeful note.
“It’s hard, but let’s have faith,” Marte said. “This is the beginning.”