INDIANAPOLIS — The City of Indianapolis has had a Chief Diversity and Equity Officer for the last nine months. Now, his job role is expanding— The city-county council approved the creation of an Office of Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion.
This new department will operate under the Mayor's Office.
"The work of equity and inclusion will benefit every single resident in Marion County regardless of race, gender or income," Ben Tapper, Chief Diversity Equity Officer, said.
Since January, creating an office for equity, belonging, and inclusion has been a task within the Mayor's Office.
"It brings robust equity and inclusion and placement for the city from the top down," Councilor La Keisha Jackson, (D) District 14 said.
The proposal approved Monday night will now allow the office to conduct diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training for all city employees and departments, lead initiatives within the community, and allow the current Chief Director to expand the office with more employees.
"To me, EDI expansion looks like inclusiveness from city level to interdepartmental, to external departments, and including our park community partners, our city leaders, our governmental departments in our residence," Jackson said.
Jackson said she sponsored this proposal to let people know that they are serious about establishing a city that is welcoming and inviting to all.
When WRTV’s Amber Grigley asked her why it took so long to establish this office, Jackson said: "I can't answer that question but we're here now and we're here to say that we are a city of first-class city and a first-class city to everyone."
Even though Tapper has been at work since the beginning of the year, some council members questioned the initiative during a committee debate last month.
"I'm just still trying to wrap my head around why peace, why we need this department, why we need this, why this cannot be done within the individual departments themselves and have someone that is tasked with doing these things rather than create a whole new department," Brian Mowery, (R) District 25 said.
"If we're in the business of making cities and municipalities work for our residents. This is the kind of work we have to be doing," Tapper said.
Tapper said plans and staffing for his department will depend on budget approval.
Indianapolis Mayoral candidate Jefferson Shreve issued the following statement:
“As I’ve said in the past, DEI initiatives are important to ensure our city government serves and creates opportunities for all residents, especially in a city as increasingly diverse as Indianapolis. Our city will not be sufficiently equitable until it is safe for all its citizens, in all its neighborhoods. The first priority in government is public safety, and it's concerning to see the Director of Public Safety position continue to go unfilled, as well as over 300 uniformed police officer positions. I believe those are our most urgent hires.”