NAACP to host law enforcement panel

The Columbus/Bartholomew County Area Chapter of the NAACP has organized a panel discussion with representatives from local law enforcement, including the prosecutor’s office and a judge, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today at The Commons, 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

Chapter President Bishop Johnnie Edwards mentioned that the event originally was planned pre-COVID, but had to be canceled.

He added that the meeting is not connected to any specific case or problem, but rather, a broad look at policies and procedures such as sentencing of convicted offenders and other elements “that the community normally may not necessarily be fully aware of, in order that we all can avoid some form of confusion.”

He mentioned a situation in the past in which a person was charged after carrying a weapon to Central Middle School, and eventually was charged with a misdemeanor and received probation.

“People have asked us, ‘How come that was not a felony?’” Edwards said.

He said he figured a crowd of maybe 50 to 75 people would seem healthy for such a discussion.

Panelists will include representatives from the Columbus Police Department, The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police, the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s Office and the Bartholomew County Probation Department and at least one local judge. Edwards will serve as a moderator.

He emphasized that the gathering is to get an overall look at law enforcement and not about having local residents grill any one official about one specific case or another.

“We’ll ask them to to deal with general information about how legal and law enforcement processes work so that the community can be even more informed,” Edwards said. “The community may not always be clear on understanding guidelines.

“This way, both sides can be better informed.”

Edwards he hopes the meeting could become an annual event to educate people and build a general awareness of how law enforcement and the legal system operates.

“Knowledge,” he said, “is power.”