When a police-action shooting of a person who is a minority happens or a march to support social causes such as “Black Lives Matter,” or “Blue Lives Matter,” is organized, residents usually have one question, said one college professor.

Could it happen here?

The Franklin College Office of Diversity and Inclusion is hosting a march and question and answer panel next week to help educate and address questions residents may have about what has become a national topic, police and community relations, said David Carlson, philosophy and religion professor at the college.

“You can’t help but wonder, can that happen here?” he said.

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Carlson got the idea to plan the march and panel in Franklin after attending a dinner touting human rights in Columbus.

He saw how welcoming that city was to minorities and wanted to show that Franklin was welcoming too, he said.

And he wanted to help educate others that Franklin is a community, but being a member of a community takes work, mutual respect and awareness from everyone, Carlson said.

“A town can be a community, community is achieved by the people who live there,” he said.

A group of five panelists of mostly local police officers, an Indiana State Police officer, a Franklin College professor of sociology and criminal justice and the executive director of the non-profit organization 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, will answer questions moderated by Carlson during the panel.

Audience members will be able to ask questions too.

Carlson expects that residents will want to know what Franklin can do better to address some of the national issues and to help make sure that those incidents do not make it to this community, he said.

“We can respond as a community and say ‘that is not us,” he said.

Jason Jimerson, sociology and criminal justice professor at Franklin College, agreed to be a panelist to help educate the community.

As a black man with a 16-year-old son, he can sometimes fear his son being stopped by police. About 50 of his former students have careers in law enforcement, including Nick Schultz, who was fatally shot during his work as a Merrillville police officer in 2014.

Part of Jimeron’s goal is for both police officers and minorities to recognize another perspective, he said.

“My goal is to try to talk about the perspective of each side and talk about what I consider legitimately different perspectives,” he said.

Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Randy Werden will serve as panelists.

Officers are trained to know that they are one traffic stop away from becoming national news with an incident, Werden said.

Part of what has kept most of that away from Franklin and Johnson County is that police and the community do work together to make sure the towns that are policed are a community, he said.

“That is what it takes to keep a community safe, working together as one unit,” Werden said.

An awareness march from a gazebo on Franklin College’s campus to First Baptist Church in downtown Franklin will help get the issues to the forefront, organizers said.

“More (people) will be affected by the march than who is marching,” Carlson said. “It makes an important issue public.”

If you go

What: March and panel for positive police/community relations

When: March begins at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. Panel discussion begins at 3:45 p.m.

Where: The march starts at a gazebo next to Franklin College’s library, 101 Branigin Blvd. Marchers will go to First Baptist Church of Franklin, 201 E. Jefferson St., where the panel will follow the march.

Cost: Free

Meet the panelists:

  • Precious Cornner-Jones, an Indiana State Police officer.
  • Jason Jimerson, associate professor of sociology and sociology and department chairperson at Franklin College
  • Ontay Johnson, the executive director of the 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, a youth development organization that provides mentoring-based educational programs.
  • Tim O’Sullivan, Franklin police chief
  • Randy Werden, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy.
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Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mkritsch@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2770.