When Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard threatened to sue the city of Minneapolis, he said that “Carmel has worked tirelessly over the last two decades to ensure that … regardless of where one is from or what race one is, they are welcome to live, work and raise their families safely in Carmel.” Mayor Brainard’s perception of equality in Carmel stands in contrast with the lived experience of its Black community members.
On June 14, Carmel residents gathered at Civic Square to peacefully protest racial injustice in our community. Black community members shared their experiences being stopped for “Driving While Black.” Data supports the stories shared by Black speakers. A 2019 study conducted by WISH-TV revealed that Black drivers in Carmel are ticketed at a rate almost 18 times higher than white drivers.
This trend has persisted during the past two decades. In 1997, the NAACP filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that the Carmel Police Dept. maintained a policy of stopping vehicles without cause. The parties settled, and CPD promised that future stops would not be based on race. Yet, in 2016, CPD settled another lawsuit after a Black driver alleged that officers drew their weapons, handcuffed him and placed him in the backseat of a police car during a traffic stop. The driver was stopped because an officer ran the driver’s license plate number, and a system error reported that the driver’s car was stolen. It remains unclear why the officer ran the driver’s license plate number absent a traffic violation, let alone why guns were drawn without provocation by the driver.
In his statement to Minneapolis officials, Mayor Brainard said, “Those in power need to understand the far-reaching consequences of their actions.” Mayor Brainard and Carmel City Council members must also understand the consequences of inaction. Failing to remediate the racial disparity in policing creates two versions of Carmel. One version is nationally recognized as one of the safest cities to raise a family. The other is a city where people of color experience unequal treatment by a police force meant to impartially enforce the law.
Carmel has developed tremendously in the past two decades under Mayor Brainard’s leadership in many areas, but racial equality lags behind. Carmel citizens highlighted an issue in our community. The question remains, what our leaders will do to address it.
Justin Hill, Carmel