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Law enforcement responds to BLM demands

The May 25 killing of George Floyd sparked protests around the globe and in Marion, demanding justice for Floyd and many other Black individuals who have died at the hands of the police.

Since then, more than 800 community members responded to a Community Policing Survey created by activist Torri Williams outlining ways in which policing in Grant County could prevent incidents similar to the death of George Floyd from happening in the future.

Marion Police Department (MPD) Chief Angela Haley said although the police department can improve, the issue is not one-sided.

“This is a community issue. There are a lot of people that need to be educated, and there are a lot of things that need to be addressed, but it is not and should not be solely aimed at police reform,” she said. “I think law enforcement can improve, but I don’t think we are the biggest problem. This is a much bigger conversation than police reform.”

Six hundred and twenty-one community members responded that they believe it is “very important” for MPD and the Grant County Sheriff’s Department (GCSD) to implement implicit bias and cultural sensitivity training.

Jonesboro Police Chief Joel Thomas said his officers had done online training. Still, he would like to have his officers complete in-person implicit bias and cultural sensitivity training when COVID-19 restrictions permit.

While some have called to “defund the police,” according to Thomas, the opposite is needed.

“I don’t know any police agency that has enough money,” Thomas said. “Maybe we could find ways to give them more money to go towards things like racial and cultural sensitivity training, or maybe get some more de-escalation training in there. I’m always an advocate for training. I don’t think there can ever be enough training.”

MPD does not currently require that officers complete implicit bias training and cultural sensitivity training, but Haley said the department is looking into it.

“Quite honestly, I’ve taken an implicit bias class,” she said. “I don’t think it should be mandated for police alone. I think everybody should have to take it.”

Because MPD is obligated to respond to every complaint of suspicious behavior, Haley said the training would be beneficial for community members who might call in a complaint.

Additionally, Haley said it would be helpful for callers to remain on the line and answer any questions the dispatcher may ask.

“The dispatcher is asking questions to get information that officers need to appropriately respond,” she said. “A lot of people get upset when dispatchers ask questions. They don’t give the information, or they half give the information. We need people to answer the questions. That, quite honestly, could help with many of the things that happen.”

MPD is in the process of reviewing its use of force policy, Haley said.

“If we decide to make changes, we will take it before the board of works,” she said. “It’s something we occasionally do, but it’s something that I felt like we needed to do.”

Haley agreed with the majority of survey respondents that officer salaries should be competitive to attract and retain the best recruits.

“I would love for that to happen. We’ve lost some really good officers that quite honestly could offer better pay,” she said.

But it’s not all about pay, Haley said.

“The people that work at the police department, the people that do these types of jobs, they’re not just doing it for money,” she said. “They want to fix and help with problems. They want to feel like they are making a difference, and they need to feel like they are being appreciated.”

More than 70 percent of the responses said officers needed to be incentivized to live and be engaged in the community they serve.

Haley agreed and added, “If you want to keep and retain great police officers, then they need to feel the support of the community. When we reach out a hand, someone has to reach back. It can’t all be one-sided.”

While MPD already mandates that officers exhaust all reasonably available alternatives before using lethal force, Haley said many situations are not as simple as they may appear.

“These situations happen very quickly,” she said. “When things are caught on video, you guys have the luxury of slowing it down and playing it frame by frame by frame, but it happens in seconds.”

When a police officer uses inappropriate levels of force, Haley said fellow officers on-scene are required to intervene.

“We already encourage that,” she said. “Police officers are human beings. There isn’t a perfect one among us. We all have things that get under our skin. We all can have an emotional response to things.”

Haley told a story of a time she was upset by something that had happened, and an officer of a lower rank stepped in and told her that he would take care of the situation.

“He had me step back, and he took the lead on it,” she said. “I’ve seen that happen time and time again, and we encourage that, and we have for years.”

MPD has a policy regarding the prohibition of shooting at moving vehicles, but Haley said there were times when MPD had shot into moving vehicles that were being used as a weapon.

According to Haley, police officers often “fill the gaps” and complete tasks that are not policing duties.

“Mental health would be a big one. We are tasked regularly with dealing with mental health issues,” she said.

MPD is often asked to pick up people on emergency detention orders, sometimes by a mental health facility, Haley said.

“They are getting paid to take care of these patients, why are we getting police officers involved in that? Why don’t they have the staff available to deal with those problems?” she said. “That’s just one example.”

In addition to showing appreciation for police officers and completing implicit bias and cultural sensitivity training, Haley said the community could help by cooperating with police during investigations.

“We get very little help where that’s concerned,” she said. “Victims are getting no justice. This has been going on for years. This isn’t a new thing.”

A lack of respect from the younger generation and a lack of communication between neighbors create unnecessary issues, Haley said.

“We have a responsibility to earn (respect), but 20 years ago, people did not talk the way they talk to adults today,” she said. “If we could get neighbors to talk about things, that would solve a lot of problems. Minor neighborhood problems could be solved by just talking with parents and neighbors.”

Thomas said he believes there is some substance behind the Black Lives Matter movement, and that individuals should keep an open mind and listen to what the organization says.

“I think the media is focusing more on some of these (protests) that are turning violent and destructive rather than the actual protesting that stands for the movement,” he said. “I think a lot of people are taking advantage of the situation, and it’s distracting from the actual movement itself. I don’t believe (the looting) is part of the core of the BLM movement.”

Former MPD Assistant Police Chief Alex Huskey said he also believes the community and the police department need to work together to make necessary changes.

“We as a community, not just the police community or Black community, all together must find a way to come together and find reasonable solutions to these problems, so we don’t have more incidents of hate and violence,” he said. “We have to deal with the fact that hate still exists, and we have to talk about it openly and work to resolve the issues instead of pretending like it doesn’t exist.”

“(Police officers) are public servants. At the end of the day, we are to be the shepherds of our community,” Thomas said. “We’re to protect our community, so I feel we need to listen to every human being in our community, and if they truly believe there’s something that is unjust or unfair, we need to listen to that and work towards ways to be better shepherds of our community.”

Grant County Sheriff Reggie Nevels declined to comment for this story.


News
featured
4-H Fair beats the heat

Although there were fewer fans in the stands this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, fans were around every corner at the Grant County 4-H Fair cooling off animals and people in the hot July weather.

The fair week began Monday when the temperature was a high of 94 degrees, rather than its usual start date in mid-June.

However, this year’s Grant County 4-H Fair was a success despite the unique challenges, according to Kris Goff, the Grant County Purdue Extension 4-H Youth Extension Educator.

“Everybody worked really well with (the heat),” she said. “We knew it was that time of year where it was going to be hot and pretty much everybody, and the animals, did pretty well.”

Only family and close friends of the 4-H participants were invited to attend the animal shows and presentations this year, Goff said.

“For what we were allowing the kids, it was a pretty good turnout,” she said. “It wasn’t as big of a crowd as we were used to, but it was pretty good.”

Ten-year member and recent Oak Hill graduate Austin Clock won Grand Champion Market Lamb, Grand Champion Breeding Heifer and Senior Champion Showmanship in the Sheep Show.

“Hard work pays off,” he said.

Every morning, Clock said he is up at 6 a.m. feeding and rinsing heifers. He then moves to the next barn to wash the babies for next year’s fair. If it’s hot, Clock said he would come back around noon to rinse them again. Each night, Clock said he feeds and rinses the cows again.

“... And then we have all of our cows at home,” he said. “We have about 60 cows at home, so we have to take care of them too.”

With all the hard work Clock puts into taking care of his animals, he said he does not have time to do many other things.

“Just showing,” he said.

Clock said he plans to study agriculture at Butler Community College in Kansas and raise cows out west.

Although Clock had a successful year at the Grant County Fair, he said he usually competes each weekend from March to May, but he has only done three shows this year.

“So that’s a little different. Especially for your last year, that kind of sucks,” he said.

Fourteen-year-old Brooklyn Fields, a participant in the Swine Show this year, described this year as “chaos.”

“With COVID and stuff, I haven’t really been able to work with them as much as I want to,” she said. “(Lucy Lopez) lives a lot closer to (the pigs) than I do, so she’s been able to work with them a lot more than I have.”

Lopez won Grand Champion Pygmy Wether at the Goat show this year.

She said this year was a learning experience for her, and she recently decided she wants to become a veterinarian when she graduates.

Fields and Lopez said they missed riding rides together like they usually do.

Despite the changes, Goff said attendants and participants appreciated the fair.

“Considering all the changes that we had to do, I think it went pretty smoothly. Everybody worked with us,” she said.

Goff said they are planning to have the fair in June next year, and she hopes COVID-19 restrictions will no longer be an issue at that time.


News
City awards citizens for heroism following house fire

At Tuesday’s Marion City Council meeting, the Marion Fire Department (MFD) honored two citizens who sprung into action to pull a man from a house fire.

MFD Chief Paul David awarded brothers Trevionte Smith and Marcus Harvey Citizens Life Saving Awards, “in recognition of your selfless and courageous act of rendering aid in a sudden and unexpected situation which resulted in preservation of a life.”

Smith and Harvey recounted the events of the afternoon of June 21 to council. The brothers were driving back from running an errand when they smelled smoke and found the home at 3021 S. Adams St. was on fire.

Smith said while some people had gathered and were recording the fire on their phones, he and Harvey immediately went toward the house to see what was going on and heard a man moaning inside.

“When they pulled up, people were standing outside with their cell phones, filming,” David said. “These two didn’t do that. They didn’t even think of a cell phone as far as I know. They went in there, took care of business and got out.”

Harvey advised Smith not to break a window because it sounded like the man inside was nearby, so instead Smith kicked the door open.

“It blew me away from the door, so I turned around, took my shirt off,” Smith said. “And now there’s a whole bunch of smoke, fire and smoke, so when you look in the house all you can see is the first step because it’s full of smoke. So I said I can’t see, but keep talking to me, keep talking to me.”

Smith said he eventually ran into the man inside and began dragging him outside the home, and Harvey helped drag the man to the grass to await medical attention.

Harvey said he wasn’t sure why, but earlier that day God told him to tell his brother that he was God’s child.

“I said, ‘I don’t know but God was just telling me to tell you this,’ and right after I told him that as he was saying there was the fire and everything. Me, I’m scared. I don’t do fires and stuff like that,” Harvey said. “We knew that God was there with us and it was a blessing we all got out of there.”

Councilman Brian Cowgill, a retired MFD firefighter, said until you are in an active house fire it’s hard to understand how hard it is to see and how hot the fires can get.

“Water boils at 212 degrees. Most of our house fires we go into are anywhere from 1100-1500 degrees to kind of give you an idea,” he said. “Seriously, I commend you. It’s remarkable. I’m proud of you guys.”

David said Smith and Harvey showed selfless heroism that is sometimes hard to find in today’s society.

“This man was a total stranger, yet they risked their lives to make every effort possible to save him. Unfortunately that man did perish, but their efforts were not in vain. They did get him out and the man was alive at that time,” David said. “For that I am grateful, and so is the city council of Marion for your selfless act.”


Local
Lakeview holding outdoor graduation

Lakeview holding outdoor graduation

Lakeview Christian School’s graduation will take place Saturday, July 11 at 6 p.m. It will be an outdoor event taking place in the church/school parking lot, 5318 S. Western Ave. in Marion.

Marion cancels Daddy Daughter Dance

The City of Marion announced this year’s Daddy Daughter Dance has officially been canceled. The annual event which normally takes place at the Garden House each spring had been postponed due to COVID-19, but due to continued health precautions the event will not be rescheduled this year. Please contact Rose Cadena for refunds at 765-382-3761 or rcadena@cityofmarion.in.gov.

ISDH updates COVID-19 count

The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) Friday announced 748 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases statewide to 50,300.

A total of 2,555 Hoosiers have died of COVID-19, with another 193 probable deaths reported.

As of Friday, 37 percent of ICU beds and 84 percent of ventilators are available statewide. To date, 550,562 tests have been reported to ISDH, up from 542,292 on Thursday.

For more information, visit coronavirus.in.gov.

Jonesboro to hold executive session

The Jonesboro Board of Works and Safety will be holding an executive session on Thursday, July 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Jonesboro Community Building, 705 Corder St., to discuss personnel.

Sweetser Sesquicentennial planning meeting upcoming

A planning meeting for the Sweetser Sesquicentennial, Aug. 21, 2021, will be held on July 27 at 7 p.m. at Sweetser Town Hall, 113 N. Main St. All are welcome to attend, and the meeting should last about an hour.

Taylor cancels Homecoming weekend

Taylor University has canceled planned Homecoming and Family Weekend activities which were scheduled for Oct. 9-11. Interim President Dr. Paige Comstock Cunningham said it was decided to cancel due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and advisories from the state and CDC to limit access to campus as much as possible.

Cunningham said she, her senior leadership team and Taylor’s Alumni and Parents teams are considering ways to gather in an online setting. Announcements will come as they are available.


News
Council to subpoena mayor for Old Y discussion, documents

Marion City Council will subpoena Mayor Jess Alumbaugh and his administration to compel them to appear before council and provide financial records regarding the ongoing Old Y litigation.

In June, council voted to formally invite Alumbaugh, Chief of Staff Mike Flynn, Controller Julie Flores and city attorney Tom Hunt to the Tuesday, July 7 regular meeting. Council President Deb Cain also emailed Flores on July 2 requesting she provide 22 various fund and vendor reports from 2015-2019 to council by July 6 so the council could review the documents before the meeting.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Cain said she received an email from Flores stating the request for documents was “unreasonable and quite frankly inconsiderate” due to the complexity of the request, the Independence Day holiday weekend and planned vacations for controller’s office employees. Flores said the information could be provided within 10 days once Cain clarified exactly what reports she was asking for.

Cain said she gave Flores an updated deadline of July 16 to supply the financial information to council so they can review the documents before the July 21 meeting. She also told council of an email she received from Tom Hunt requesting council postpone the discussion with the administration until the Aug. 4 meeting.

“We believe to discuss this tonight is premature. In addition, Julie is on vacation this week and cannot be there,” Cain read from Hunt’s email. “Meeting with you Aug. 4 makes sense to us because it will give you time to digest the documents, formulate questions which we will do our best to answer.”

Hunt’s email went on to say the administration would discuss financial aspects of the pending litigation but would not discuss any litigation strategy because “to do otherwise constitutes a waiver of the city’s attorney and client privilege.”

Cain said she was disappointed the administration was not present at the meeting to discuss the case’s finances, especially as the city moves into budget season.

“We were trying to get ahead of the budget time because we don’t know what effects the COVID is going to have on the city finances and our budget and we need to have those answers so we can prepare for that budget time,” she said.

Cain reminded council they had also taken action in June stating the body’s intention to pursue next steps of action if the administration did not come to the July 7 meeting and handed out state statutes detailing the powers council has.

Councilman Mike Cline said he believed it was premature for the council to take further action when the administration had proposed a meeting date.

“We’re jumping up and down when we don’t need to jump up and down. They’re willing to come Aug. 4,” Cline said. “Some people on this council had up to five or six years to ask questions about this, so we don’t need to jump up and down about this now. They’re willing to meet Aug. 4. Why don’t we allow them to meet with us Aug. 4 and see what we get?”

Cain said she was concerned that the meeting dates would continue to get delayed further and further into the budget process.

“This is the second time that we’ve asked for someone from the administration to come and it keeps being delayed,” she said. “If we keep delaying that, then we are caught behind the 8 ball to prepare for the budget.”

Councilman Jim Brunner said it makes sense the mayor would delay his appearance since Flores was on vacation and unavailable.

“I don’t know why the mayor wouldn’t have told (Cain) at that point that it was going to be virtually impossible for you to answer questions if he didn’t have the controller in the room here this evening,” he said. “And I agree with Mr. Cline. I think this is something we’re getting way ahead of ourselves and I think that if we have a date set, we have a date set. Let’s go and look at that date.”

Councilman Brian Cowgill said setting a date is beside the point and he was still confused why the administration had not provided the financial information council has requested.

“We’ve been asking for this information for almost a month now and we can’t get it. They won’t answer it and that’s the part I don’t understand. Why don’t we have this part already?” Cowgill said.

Councilwoman Robin Fouce said it was time for the council to move forward to get the information they need.

“There has been no extension of mere respect and collaboration for the council as a legislative body as a part of leadership in this city,” she said. “When the council meets, we need our mayor and anyone else, any department head, anyone that has a stake in running the city.”

Brunner asked when the 2021 budget approval deadline is, and council attorney Martin Harker said council has until Nov. 2 to adopt its budget, tax rates and tax levies. Brunner noted that gives council four months to work on the budget.

Council voted 5-3-1 to move forward to “get information immediately from the administration,” with Cline, Brunner and Gary Fordyce, Sr. voting no and Steve Henderson abstaining. Council then voted 6-3, with Cline, Brunner and Fordyce again voting no, to subpoena Alumbaugh and administration officials to appear before council at the July 21 meeting. The vote also approved subpoenaing requested financial documents to be turned over by July 21.

Following the meeting, Cain said she will work with Harker to draft the subpoenas. State statute states if a person refuses to testify or produce evidence to a legislative body like council following a subpoena, council may order the clerk to present a report of the situation to a county court. The court would review the information and make a ruling whether the person is required to testify or produce the information.

In a statement to the Chronicle-Tribune, Alumbaugh said he doesn’t know why some members of council “are being so difficult” through this process of gathering information about the Old Y case.

“I want to make it clear that I will not be intimidated or bullied by their threats,” Alumbaugh said. “It is no secret that what some of the members of this Council want is to exercise many of the powers and duties assigned to the Mayor by Indiana law.”

Alumbaugh said his administration has never refused to meet with council, and he believed the July 7 meeting would not be fruitful without the financial information that Flores was unable to compile due to the holiday weekend, vacation, the annual audit process and preparations for budget season.

“We have not refused to sit down with them to discuss appropriate topics; we will not, however, do it in illegal secret meetings, such as President Cain’s June 15 request to meet in executive session so that the meeting would be ‘... outside the public’s eye for this exact reason, so the wrong information does not get out there and we can control what it (sic) then reported,’” Alumbaugh said.

Issuing subpoenas and the process through the courts it will bring “is no way to conduct the taxpayers’ business,” Alumbaugh said.

“We were all elected by the citizens of this community and it is time to put politics aside and work together to serve those citizens in a mature and responsible manner,” Alumbaugh said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, several council members expressed displeasure when Cline told council he received the email from Hunt to Cain outlining that the administration would not be coming to the meeting. Other council members asked why Cline received the information when the other seven members did not, and he said he was curious, so he asked.

“I’m an ex-news guy. I look for stuff,” Cline said. “I knew there was an invitation out for the meeting tonight, so this morning I sent an email out to the mayor and to Tom Hunt saying what’s up, what’s going to happen? Because I was curious.”

Henderson said Cline receiving the email was an “undermining” of council, and councilman Don Batchelor said he believed all council members should receive the same information.

“If one gets it and eight others doesn’t get it, that doesn’t seem above board. That sounds like we’re trying to hide something and not giving us the information that others are privy with,” Batchelor said. “I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s the correct thing to do.”

“Well then you should also ask President Cain why she didn’t share it with you when she got it,” Cline responded.

Councilman Brad Luzadder noted that as vice president of council, he did not receive the email from Hunt.

“I find it utterly repulsive that this would go on in this forum,” he said. “That is one of the most underhanded and devious things I’ve ever seen and I am totally offended ...”


News
Commissioners approve IT COVID-19 expenses

Grant County Commissioners approved a variety of agreements and purchases at its regular meeting Monday.

Commissioners approved a $10,827.98 expense from the IT department for equipment that will allow the county courts to operate jury selection remotely outside of the courthouse to maintain COVID-19 guidelines.

IT department expenses of $6,060 for six additional HP laptops for county employees working from home and $823 for a color printer for the Emergency Management Agency’s mobile command center vehicle were also approved, and IT Director Marcus Elliott said all of the expenses should be reimbursable from CARES Act funds since they are tied to the pandemic.

Commissioners gave Highway Superintendent David White approval to change the bid award for 2020-2021 salt contracts after White discovered a lower bid had been sent to the spam folder of his email. The bid was originally awarded to Morton Salt for $81.74 per ton, but White will now award low bidder Detroit Salt the contract for $79.73 per ton. Detroit Salt provided the county’s salt last season for a price of $91.45 per ton, White said.

White also received approval for a $7,131.64 cleaning of the highway department’s fuel tanks by Plainfield National of Keystone, Indiana. White said he plans to come back to the commissioners with a plan to enter a three-year agreement with Plainfield National for twice-a-year fuel tank and filter cleaning for $5,616.55 annually, which the county could suspend at any time.

Prosecutor Rodney Faulk received approval from commissioners to purchase two in-car radios for the Swayzee Police Department for $6,591.62. Tyler Keith of Swayzee Police said one of the vehicles does not currently have a radio, and the other vehicle’s radio is outdated and sometimes malfunctions.

Commissioners approved Recorder Kathy Foy’s requests for microfilm roll storage from US Imaging, Inc. of Saginaw, Michigan for a one-time cost of $2,586.13 with a $1,520 expense yearly after that.

Foy was also approved to spend $256,322 to digitize county records from 1967-1993. She noted the digitization project will come out of her perpetuation fund, which has plenty of money to cover the large expense.

Commissioners also appointed David Morgan III to serve an initial two-year term as county council’s representative to the newly-established county Economic Development Commission following a recommendation from Council President Shane Middlesworth.