Last Thursday night, Sunflower County District 1 Supervisor Glenn Donald and several dozen others stood outside the home of the late Travis Shaw, and in the darkness of night, they released balloons and sang Gospel songs in honor of the fallen 28-year-old.
After the balloons flew into the air, Donald stopped beside me and said, “something has got to change.”
Indianola has seen five murders of five young men in 2019.
That’s five too many for this community.
Our murder rate should be zero. And it could be zero.
Indeed, something has to change in 2020.
It’s going to take a combined effort from the city’s leadership, the police department and the citizens.
We support any and all marches against violence in this city, but that is just the start of the conversation. It isn’t the solution.
We hope that the conversation continues over the next 12 months, inside homes, churches, businesses and city board meetings.
Citizens who see suspicious activity need to report this to the police. Those who have anything to contribute to a shooting investigation need to find a way to get their story to the police.
There is a legitimate fear of retaliation, but there are ways to anonymously notify authorities if you witness anything that might help the police solve a violent crime.
Police need to be vigilant about thoroughly investigating reported suspicious activity. If the citizens don’t feel as if they are taken seriously, they will simply stop reporting things that may be key in helping to stop or solve violent and non-violent crimes.
The city’s leadership needs to step up and create a plan to combat police turnover.
According to IPD Chief Edrick Hall, his department is only about 40% staffed. That’s not acceptable.
This means that the police department cannot adequately cover the city’s streets during the night, creating a recipe for more tragedies.
A fully-staffed police department will allow officers to be more proactive instead of always being reactive when it comes to gunfire inside the city limits.
The burden should not be on the department to fund itself through the issuance of tickets at roadblocks.
Besides the mass presumption of guilt involved with that strategy, it is hardly a sustainable way to fund officer pay and pay raises.
Hopefully the city board will resolve itself to less fighting in 2020 and focusing on more productive projects like a viable plan for increasing pay for the city’s police and firemen to help curb turnover and keeping the departments as fully staffed as possible.
This will literally save lives.
If 2020 is going to be a safer year for Indianola, it is going to take an effort from everyone.
Don’t think because you live in a certain neighborhood that you are isolated from the problems caused by violent crimes.
This affects the entire city, so find a way to get involved and help find solutions.
It’s a new year and a new decade for Indianola. Let’s take our city back.
Note: IPD Chief Edrick Hall told The E-T he planned to be on Monday night’s board of aldermen agenda to present another resignation and plead again for an officer pay raise. The E-T will have coverage of this week’s meeting in next week’s print edition.