The Valparaiso Human Relations Council passed a resolution on Tuesday which requests that the city take actions regarding policing procedures.
The council penned the document in an effort to reconcile the community after a disputed arrest spurred tense conversation about Valparaiso police culture, racism and the city’s participation in a Gang Task Force. The committee said they hope to use the incident as an opportunity to improve police-citizen relations.
Valparaiso University alumnus Darryl Jackson Jr. was pulled over on Aug. 29 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. Charges against Jackson have been dropped.
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.”
In the months since the arrest, public figures have taken opposing stances on the issue, providing a voice for each side of the debate.
On Sept. 3, Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas publicly condemned Lucas’ actions in a statement, 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.”
The Fraternal Order of Police lodges 165 and 152 issued a public response to Costas, backing Lucas’ actions and saying, “you’ve legitimized criminal behavior in our community.”
Porter County Sheriff David Reynolds and BHPD Chief Mike Heckman also defended Lucas, saying he acted “professionally” in a situation where Jackson was being “generally uncooperative.”
Heckman told the Chesterton Tribune, “[Lucas] had probable cause for everything he did. There were no civil rights violations.”
Tension peaked last month during the October HRC meeting when the resolution was proposed. Nearly 100 Valparaiso and Porter County community members turned out to voice either discontent or praise for resolution.
That group included about 30 Porter County police officers and representatives who expressed fundamental concern, criticizing the resolution for its 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.
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."
Some community members continued to contest the resolution on Tuesday, while others saw it as the proper next step.
On Nov. 10, Reynolds, Costas and Jackson signed a Joint Statement calling for further discussion of issues and bias training for local police officers.
Jackson told the NWI Times, “It’s on all of us to stop the cycle of disrespect.”
Contact Rebecca Gesme at email@example.com.