Candidates for Indianapolis mayor, incumbent Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican challenger Jefferson Shreve, shared their visions for the city at their first debate Sunday evening, which focused on important issues facing the Black community.
Both addressed wide-ranging topics, including policing and housing. They also fielded questions about food deserts, mental health, charter schools, and minority-owned businesses and city contracts.
Both candidates agreed more needs to be done to reverse the deficit of over 300 officers in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and that veteran officers need to be retained, but each offered small differences in how they would prevent over-policing of the Black community and recruit officers from communities of color.
Hogsett, seeking a third term, boasted that during his administration all officers were equipped with body-worn cameras. He also emphasized the creation of a use of force policy, and that he oversaw the reformation of the Use of Force Review Board and General Orders Board, which now have citizen majorities.
Many of these changes were demanded by local activists and faith leaders in summer 2020 following the death of George Floyd.
These policy changes, Hogsett said, show that his administration listens to Black residents and that the city’s goal is to recruit more Black officers.
But former council member Shreve said that the higher salary the council gave first and second year officers — up from $39,000 to $72,000 — would attract more recruits from Black and minority communities. He argued IMPD needs to prioritize compensating veteran officers more to retain talent.
Both agreed that police-community relations need to improve.
Shreve said implementing technology like dashboard cameras in patrol cars would more quickly help reach this goal. “But again, having that visible, not just responding-in-a-crisis presence is so crucial to that environment we need to create,” he said.
The mayor responded that the City County Council will be deciding on a dash cam budget in its 2024 budget in the coming weeks. “So to the extent that Jefferson believes it hasn’t been fast enough — it’s in the process of happening as we speak,” he said
The debate was a partnership between The Recorder, the African American Coalition of Indianapolis (AACI) and Radio One.
Marion County renters are paying hundreds of dollars more per month since the pandemic started, according to multiple reports. But when asked about gentrification, high rent and increasing taxes, the candidates primarily focused on homeowners instead of renters.
Shreve said he thinks investment in neighborhoods and retaining longtime residents through limiting the property tax increases that accompany rising home values, especially those on a fixed income, is one way he would pursue that.
Hogsett said that they’re already working on a plan to help longtime residents remain in their homes. They’re currently testing that program in Riverside — residents 55 or older who lived in the house for 10 or more years qualify for property-tax relief — and that he plans to expand the program if it’s successful.
The moderators also echoed a question many people have: how are Joe Hogsett and Jefferson Shreve different? They look alike and have some similar policies, they said.
The mayor pointed to his accident taking the trash out the previous week. “I’m the one with the busted lip,” Hogsett said. “I’d like to continue to lead [Indianapolis] out of the pandemic.”
Shreve would leverage his business connections while engaging the council and mayors from surrounding counties.
This debate underscored many of those similarities, but the two candidates still distinguished themselves on certain topics in the span of an hour.
The Indianapolis Recorder livestreamed the debate on their Facebook and YouTube pages. Three watch parties were organized at churches and community organizations across the city.
The next debate is Oct. 23 on WISH-TV Channel 8.
The election is Nov. 7. Early voting begins Wednesday.
Contact investigative reporter Zak Cassel at email@example.com and follow him on X: @zakcassel_