The Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition is a faith-based organization working to reduce gun violence and homicide among youths ages 12 to 24.
Two Indianapolis employees, whose jobs are to improve the city and police department’s relationship with the community, are under fire for comments they made on Facebook about the Ten Point Coalition.
The comments came during a Facebook Live show hosted by ministers Preston T. Adams III and Denell Howard on Wednesday. Part of the show centered on public safety in Indianapolis, leading one commenter to ask whether Ten Point responded to a recent Downtown shooting.
“Ten Point is out walking the track like good hoes do,” Gregory Meriweather, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department civilian employee, wrote jokingly in response.
And when someone asked what Ten Point has been up to, Community Violence Reduction Director Shonna Majors wrote: “$$$.”
Rev. Charles Harrison, who leads the nonprofit Ten Point, said he was shocked by the comments — particularly because Majors helps decide which nonprofits receive violence reduction grants from the city. Ten Point intends to apply for the grants this year, Harrison said.
“She’s saying all we’re in it for is the money,” Harrison said. “And that is very disturbing when I have volunteers out in the streets every night in dangerous neighborhoods.”
Ten Point is best known for organizing faith walks through tough neighborhoods a few nights each week. The faith walkers receive stipends, which are generally paid for through grants and church donations.
Majors did not immediately return an IndyStar email Thursday afternoon. Her comment appears to have been deleted from the Facebook thread.
IndyStar asked Meriweather for a response to Harrison’s concerns shared online.
“I’d rather focus on helping the community,” Meriweather wrote in a message to IndyStar. “If he’s open to talking to me personally, we can do that. I’m not going to get into a battle over social media. There are too many lives at stake.”
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Harrison on Thursday also shared a screenshot of the Facebook exchange on Twitter.
Ten Point and criticism
This isn’t the first time that the Ten Point Coalition drew such criticisms. Harrison and Ten Point are routinely disparaged by some other black leaders, including other ministers, for working with conservative leaders, such as Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill.
‘He’s a racist. He’s a liar.’: Black clergy condemn Jeff Sessions amid his visit to Indianapolis
While Harrison insists he’s a registered Democrat who voted for Hogsett in the last election, there’s open speculation among liberal black leaders that Harrison will work as a booster for Hogsett’s Republican challenger, Sen. Jim Merritt.
Harrison said he’s grown accustomed to the criticisms — which he often describes as political distractions from the real issues, such as gun violence afflicting teenagers and young men — but has decided to ignore it. It was different Wednesday though, Harrison said, because Meriweather and Majors represent the city.
After Meriweather joined IMPD in December, Chief Bryan Roach acknowledged some discomfort because Meriweather has been vocal in the past of IMPD’s interactions in minority neighborhoods. But Roach said he hired Meriweather to work alongside Majors in a community relations role.
Majors’ position, meanwhile, is a centerpiece to Mayor Joe Hogsett’s crime-fighting strategy. She leads interventions with young men who are suspected of committing gun violence and walks door-to-door in working-class neighborhoods to urge residents to sign up for services provided by the city and local nonprofits.
“People have a right to their viewpoints, particularly other black leaders and clergy. They have a right to their viewpoint,” Harrison said. “But when it’s city officials, I think it’s different. They’re in a position to be working with the community and trying to bring the community together to curb the violence.”
Response from Mayor Hogsett and Chief Roach
Harrison said he sent a screenshot of the Facebook comments in a text message to Hogsett on Wednesday night.
Aliya Wishner, a Hogsett and IMPD spokeswoman, noted that the comments were made on the employees’ personal social media accounts. Still, Wishner said, those comments could be interpreted as representing the Hogsett administration.
“Mayor Hogsett spoke with Shonna Majors this morning, and expressed his profound disappointment in her actions,” Wishner said in an email to IndyStar on Thursday. “Mayor Hogsett asked that Shonna (Majors) reach out to Rev. Harrison directly to address the issue and offer her strongest apology.”
She’s also received a formal warning, Wishner said, and will not participate in the upcoming grant cycle.
Meriweather, meanwhile, was suspended for three days without pay following a meeting with Chief Roach on Thursday evening.
“The chief plans to reach out to Rev. Harrison with the hope that the three of them can sit down and build a stronger partnership between IMPD and Ten Point moving forward,” Wishner said.
Harrison said Ten Point and IMPD have built a strong relationship over the years.
“The violence is so severe in this city that it’s going to take all of us working together to curb it,” Harrison said, “so we oughta be trying to bring people together.
This year IndyStar is deeply examining the level of violence in Indianapolis: why it is occurring, what is being done about it and what may inspire solutions. The project, called The Toll, also includes a weekly email newsletter. Subscribe for free at indystar.com/thetoll
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