Goshen police

GOSHEN — In a response to the national unrest surrounding the recent killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans by police, Goshen City Council members Tuesday approved a resolution affirming the city’s support for the Goshen Police Department while reaffirming its commitment to anti-racism, equality and justice for all.

“This resolution has no action in it. It’s more of a commitment to the community about how we feel on race, it’s a commitment and a thank you to the police department for how they’re doing things,” Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said in introducing the resolution Tuesday, noting he penned the resolution following a conversation on the topic with council president Brett Weddell over the weekend. “The rest of the resolution is comments and some facts about Goshen, things we’ve been through, the passing of our Sundown Town resolution, and moving through those.

“I think it’s a good time for us to speak to the community,” he added, while acknowledging that the resolution came to the council quite quickly, with little time for review. “This is the council voting, but the way the last section is written, it brings in the voice of myself, and also the police department, to reassure the community that we’re here to serve everyone, we’re here to make sure we’re staying ahead of any issues that we’re seeing nationally. We know that there are going to be some changes coming, and we know that there is a lot of discussions to have, and we just want to commit to doing that.”

COUNCIL SUPPORT

Following Stutsman’s reading of the resolution, council member Doug Nisley, R-District 2, praised the document and its outlined support of the city’s police department.

“I would say that I’m 100% behind this. And I’d also say that I have to think that we have one of the best police departments that is in, probably, at least, northern Indiana, if not in Indiana,” Nisley said. “I just think that we have to back our police officers as much as we can. I have a lot of friends that have gone through this police department, and other police departments, and they just feel that what’s happening nowadays is really hurting that profession, and a lot of people are walking away from it.”

Councilman Weddell, R-At-Large, offered a similar sentiment in voicing his support for the resolution.

“I’ve always respected our police officers, and after I’ve heard some of the stories that have occurred, that they’ve dealt with in the last month, my respect level could only go up on how they’ve conducted themselves,” Weddell said. “It hurts to find out that the moral of our officers is low, considering that the work and effort that each and every one of them have done throughout the course of the years in an effort to improve their connection to our community. And I think it’s vitally important that they know they have the full support of the city, the City Council, the mayor’s office, whatnot.

“Now, that does not excuse any instances that may occur in the future. This isn’t a blanket statement that any action taken by a police officer is OK,” he added. “I appreciate the way you worded this, because it identifies what we’ve done, what we’ve had issues with in the past in reference to the Sundown Ordinance and everything. But our police officers are amazing, how they handle themselves ... I think it’s important that they know that we have their back in their efforts to be the best community connection, and community outreach in everything they’ve done. So, I appreciate the words that you’ve put here. I think they’re really impactful.”

TOO SOON?

While supportive of the resolution’s overall message, there were some on the council who felt the document was being pushed through too quickly, and were hoping for some additional time to review it and offer amendments before the document was adopted.

“I’m somebody who was not wanting it on tonight’s agenda. And as I’ve said, I really don’t have issue with the content that’s there,” council member Julia King, D-At-Large, said of the resolution. “I was looking forward to a more fully-informed support. I feel like this came to us right prior to some of the conversations that have been scheduled, and I anticipated a fully-informed support.

“Again, I don’t feel fully informed at this second on all of these things, and I know people have asked for a lot of information that is not yet public,” King added of her reluctance to vote on the resolution Tuesday. “So, I was hoping to be able to just get through a couple more days of conversations, and then end with that. But I wanted to be clear, that’s not because I don’t support the FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED places at all. I’m just speaking honestly, and from my heart, and my conscience.”

Council member Gilberto Pérez Jr., D-District 5, also shared his desire to hold off on approving the resolution until he had more time to review it and offer amendments.

“I think there could be some amendments that could actually strengthen what we want to do,” he said of the resolution. “There are constituents in District 5 who have asked specific questions around policing practices and so forth, and I have appreciated that engagement. I’ve also appreciated the engagement from the Goshen Police Department saying, ‘Yes, we will sit down,’ and they are sending policies to members of the community. So, they are active, and they are doing the work, and the residents are doing the work as well.

“I would like to have a little more time to get to those conversations, and then offer an amendment or two, maybe, to think about how we actually strengthen our statement,” he added. “I heard you say, mayor, there is no action behind it. I want to be a council that supports action. But at the same time, I’d like to take a measured approach and ensure that we have process, and we’ve heard the voices that are actually speaking to us.”

ADDITIONAL RESOLUTIONS

In responding to the calls by King and Pérez Jr. to hold off on approving the resolution, Stutsman noted he wouldn’t be opposed to considering additional resolutions down the line that delve deeper into the topics touched on in his resolution.

However, he encouraged the council to approve his resolution Tuesday, noting he felt it was important to get an official statement from the city out to the community as quickly as possible.

“I think it’s possible that this doesn’t have to be the only resolution,” Stutsman said. “This could be the resolution on where we stand and how we look at racism, and then there could be an additional resolution that would address some of the other issues you’re getting at.

“This is coming fast. It is. There’s no doubt about it,” he added of the resolution. “I just thought it was good timing for both the community and the police department.”

Council member Megan Eichorn, D-District 4, offered a similar opinion.

“I know that many people in this community are waiting to hear something,” Eichorn said of her support for the resolution’s immediate passage. “I feel like this statement is a very all-encompassing support of what the city feels about racism, inclusivity and diversity, as well as saying we know you, our Goshen Police Department, are not like the national problem. We know you are a good group of guys and women. Our community needs to hear from the city. They have to. They need to hear that our Goshen Police Department supports anti-racism, and they support inclusivity, and they support diversity. They need to hear it.”

In the end, a majority of the council’s members agreed, and a motion by Pérez Jr. to postpone the vote until the council’s July 21 meeting was denied in a vote of 5 to 2 against, with King and Pérez Jr. voicing the two “No” votes.

With the call to postpone denied, council members went on to vote unanimously in favor of adopting the resolution as presented.

John Kline can be reached at john.kline@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 240315. Follow John on Twitter @jkline_TGN.

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