Dispute over the August arrest of Valparaiso University alumnus Darryl Jackson Jr. continued to polarize the community on Tuesday at a meeting of Valparaiso’s Human Relations Council.
Nearly 100 Valparaiso and Porter County community members packed City Hall to discuss a proposed resolution which requests the City take actions regarding policing procedures.
On Aug. 29 Jackson was pulled over in the Hilltop neighborhood for “suspicious behavior” and double parking. He was ultimately arrested by Burns Harbor officer Timothy Lucas for failure to identify and resisting arrest, according to the police report.
Shortly after, Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas publicly condemned Lucas’ actions in a statement released on Sept. 3, saying, “In my opinion, the Burns Harbor police officer’s conduct that night fell short of the level of professionalism our citizens expect and deserve.”
On Tuesday, the Fraternal Order of Police lodges 165 and 152 made a public statement in response to Costas. The lodges backed Lucas’ actions, and contended Costas’ position on the issue, saying, “you’ve legitimized criminal behavior in our community.”
The council’s September meeting also focused on the disputed arrest, and questioned the police culture specifically regarding the gang task force which brought the BHPD officers to town. Council members ultimately decided to draft an official statement regarding the issue.
The resolution presents an apology to Jackson for the “unfortunate incident,” and recommends “the City of Valparaiso reconsider its participation in the Task Force and withdraw from it unless steps are taken by the end of 2015...to prevent such incidents in the future.”
The proposal was immediately unsettling for some.
About 30 Porter County police officers and representatives attended the meeting to voice fundamental concern over the resolution's underlying suggestion that Lucas was in the wrong.
Lucas’ mother, Rose Lucas spoke on behalf of her son’s character.
“He was taught, you want respect, you earn respect; you show respect, you get respect,” said R. Lucas.
She aligned with the FOP statement against Costas, arguing the stop, arrest were entirely justified and within the law.
“If this gentleman would have complied, he would’ve been given a ticket and sent on his merry way, and we wouldn’t be here today.”
University Director of Multicultural Programs, Byron Martin suggested he felt it was rather a case of unprofessionalism on behalf of Lucas, echoing the statement by Costas.
He noted the heavy emotion in the room.
"It's easy to see that people wanted to come and support the people they care about,” Martin said. “But because of that level of support you could see that it wasn’t necessarily easy to see the other side."
After the meeting, Martin added he felt there were misconceptions about the power and purpose of the committee.
“They’re not making any solutions they’re just making suggestions. Suggestions of a way to get to a better place, a way to reach a solution,” said Martin.
Professor Heath Carter, speaking as a community member, called upon everyone to empathize with the side they don’t immediately connect with.
He quoted the video, and reminded it was a fear-filled scenario on both sides.
Valparaiso Police Chief Mike Brickner suggested peace be made among the two sides.
"We need each other," Brickner said. "Law enforcement can't do it on its own. We're not always going to agree, and nobody's perfect. We're going to make mistakes."
Council member Bill Lewis offered an optimistic view looking toward next month’s meeting, suggesting that “If everybody brings it down a notch, and talks reasonably than think things can be worked out fine.”
Due to time constraints, the meeting was sent to recess and will resume on Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.
Contact Rebecca Gesme at firstname.lastname@example.org.