The Urban League of Northwest Indiana (ULNI) hosted its annual Diversity Symposium on November 15 and helmed by Wayne James, an advisory board member, deputy superintendent for Regional Law Enforcement, and IUPD chief diversity officer. The ULNI formed as a way to “promote, encourage, and enhance services to improve social, educational, and economic conditions of African Americans and other minority groups in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties” according to their mission statement.
“The Urban League is something I feel very passionate about,” James said. “They help marginalized communities—specifically those of African American descent—with things like job searching, education, and community outreach and bring people together with different perspectives.”
As a board member, James works with the ULNI to help the organization evolve, becoming an active member of the league, and bringing in new ideas to help further their cause. One of these ideas was a law enforcement panel that focused on building trust between marginalized communities who might distrust the police while demystifying the police and their tactics. Eventually, this panel evolved into an annual Diversity Symposium with a high attendance and participation rate.
“Community policing is a shared responsibility,” James explained. “Before you can build a relationship, you need to have trust between the community and the police. And that’s one of the topics I wanted to cover in these symposiums. Previous panels had different police chiefs from different areas who are diverse themselves and discuss important issues like mental health and the training we have to undergo to help those individuals properly.”
The panels have been very successful. According to James, police departments have shown an increase in applications for jobs from those who attended the panels.
As the ULNI Diversity Symposium continues to grow, James hopes that he will be able to bring in more diverse speakers and topics such as active shooter response and expand the panels to reach a wider audience, particularly high schoolers.
“It’s important that we work together,” James said. “Building a relationship and a repour with communities is necessary for proper policing, and we must show them how the police are working to become more diverse and inclusive in order to better serve the communities they’re sworn to protect.”