Evansville Police and NAACP meet face-to-face on student confrontation

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Evansville Police leadership and the president of Evansville’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People met face-to-face this week.

EPD and NAACP hope to spark change together after controversy arose from an arrest of a 14 year-old student last week.

Video of the arrest on the second day of school brought outrage from some people, who said the officers are too rough. Opinions formed on both sides.

Evansville Police said the force used is justified.

“I immediately sent a text message to the Chief that we need to talk,” said Rev. Gerald Arnold, local NAACP president.

It has become a lesson for police and the community, and now some are learning the power of words.

Arnold aims to unpack what happened and grow from it. The interaction with the Academy for Innovative Studies student and three EPD officers prompted his own investigation. The NAACP assigns him this task as president.

“It’s all in an effort to get to the bottom line of whether or not you can sit down at the table, use diplomacy, and come to a reasonable point,” Arnold explained. “You need to change policy, you need to fire somebody,” he said as an example.

EPD Sgt. Jason Cullum says the department is willing to listen to him or anyone else.

“It wasn’t a meeting where he came in and leveled accusations of wrongdoing, it was a meeting where he said, these are the concerns that have been brought in,” Cullum said.

Cullum said police rely on community partners to help make Evansville better.

“I have emotions just like anyone and I want the same change that anyone else wants for the betterment of our city,” added Arnold.

Arnold is concerned with what he sees in the body cam video, but he wants to hear from everyone before a call to arms.

The student’s mother first brought the incident to light in the media. She now has a lawyer. Eyewitness News and Arnold have tried to reach her, and she has not returned calls.

“We are under scrutiny from the community all day, every day,” Cullum said. “If a dialogue needs to continue to move the community forward, then we will be a part of that.”

EPD believes it can support the decisions of its officers and still hope to do better in the future.

“They don’t have to agree with everything we did, but if you’re going to base the disagreement on something, it should be fact-based.”

There are two sides to every story and right now Arnold says he’s split down the middle. After investigating, he hopes to offer suggestions to police.

“There’s some people that are enraged, there’s some people that are concerned,” Arnold said. “There’s some people that just want to know the complete facts.”

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This story was originally published on August 13, 2019

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