Members of the city council’s public safety committee questioned Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff Wednesday night during another meeting about law enforcement's role in the community.
Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith asked Diekhoff whether he thinks there is systemic racism within police departments across America.
Diekhoff said he believes there are signs of racism seen around the nation, but he can only speak about what happens within his own department.
“I do not believe that there is systemic racism in our agency. I believe that we have a very forward-thinking department," Diekhoff said. "I believe our officers don’t have racist thoughts and don’t participate in racist activities.”
Diekhoff said part of BPD’s forward-thinking began when it became first police department in the state of Indiana to hire a social worker in June 2019.
Member of Black Lives Matter Bloomington Jada Bee said she doesn’t agree that Diekhoff can definitively say his department isn’t racist.
“What criteria is he basing that assessment on? Were there any Black people or Brown people involved in making that assessment of his police force? His police force is mostly White, and he himself is White," Bee said.
Bee said BPD’s own statistics prove that Black people are being arrested at a disproportionate rate.
In a written Q&A document between BPD and the public safety committee posted on the city’s website, it states that in 2019 Black people made up 4.6% of Bloomington’s population, but accounted for 19.28% of all arrests.
"I have report after report after report from Black people in this community saying that they are continually harrassed by the police force in this town," Bee said.
That same Q&A document raised other concerns amongst the public safety committee as it mentioned that BPD is legally authorized to make "No-knock" warrants with approval from a judge.
This is the same procedure that was used by law enforcement officers when Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in Louisville back in May.
"I was shocked," councilmember Piedmont-Smith said. "I was shocked that BPD sometimes uses No-knock warrants."
Piedmont-Smith then asked Diekhoff if he can guarantee that a situation like Breonna Taylor's cannot happen in Bloomington.
“We take tremendous steps to make sure that a situation like that would not occur here," Diekoff said. "Can I say 100% that it would never happen? No, I don’t think anybody can. But we take great strides to lessen the chances that would happen.”
The document states a "vast majority" of BPD's search warrants require what is known as "knock and announce" standards.
"Officers must knock, announce their presence and authority and wait a reasonable period of time for the persons inside the structure to open the door," the document said. "Only after the reasonable amount of time has gone by can officers force entry into the structure."
Chief Diekhoff said No-knock warrants are very rare.
“What we are debating is about the professionalism of the police department. The training they need, the staffing they need, in order for us to make sure that they are not going to slip up," councilmember Susan Sandberg said. "And that we are not going to become yet another city with another horrible headline, and another Black live taken.”
Another important topic during the meeting was how BPD can move forward in providing the appropriate services to the public.
Local residents Cathi Crabtree and Molly Stewart said they would like to launch a Community Advisory on Public Safety (CAPS) Commission
Stewart said this group could gather important information from the public and then propose solutions to the city council.
"It may also allow some folks to reach out for help who might not feel comfortable reaching out to the police and are not getting help when they need it," Stewart said.
The public safety committee said this could potentially be a great idea and it will look forward to discussing it in the future and during the city's upcoming budget talks in September.