Racial, ethnic differences in Monroe County COVID-19 vaccination rates smaller when age considered

Based on the raw numbers, Monroe County, Indiana, shows an apparent racial and ethnic disparity in COVID-19 vaccination rates.

That disparity starts to shrink, but not necessarily disappear, if the analysis accounts for differences in age distribution for different racial or ethnic groups in the county.

Vauhxx Booker was vaccinated in December—he was among the first, as a front-line health care worker. Image links to Facebook post by Booker with the photo and some perspective on race and the COVID-19 vaccination.

Reacting to potential racial disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates, activist Vauhxx Booker told The Square Beacon it’s important to account for the age distribution, because that affects the kind of narratives that get told about the differences in vaccination rates.

Based on data from Indiana’s department of health, just 1.70 percent of those who are fully vaccinated in Monroe County so far are Hispanic (284 of 16,667), compared to 3.55 percent of Hispanics in the general population. But based on 2019 estimates from the US Census, Hispanics make up just 1.52 percent of the county’s population that is older than 50.

The age distribution of race and ethnicity matters, because up until just recently, it has been just older Hoosiers—other than front-line health care workers—who have been eligible for the vaccine. For the last couple of weeks, the eligibility age bracket has included only those 50 and older.

As of Monday in Monroe County, 75 percent of those who are fully vaccinated are older than 50.

If the 50+ universe is taken as a measuring rod for disparity, even if it might be imprecise, then the Hispanic population is actually “overrepresented” among the vaccinated—by 0.18 points.

Tuesday’s news that those as young as 45 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination could mean that disparities in raw numbers could start to level out more. Continue reading “Racial, ethnic differences in Monroe County COVID-19 vaccination rates smaller when age considered”

Monroe County prosecutor asks for analysis of possible racial justice disparities in own office

A study of possible racial justice disparities in Monroe County with “special attention given to racial disparities within the prosecutor’s office” was pitched to county councilors on Tuesday, by county prosecutor Erika Oliphant.

Screen shot of Monroe County’s county council meeting on Jan. 26, 2021.

At its work session on Tuesday, Monroe County’s councilors were presented with a request from Oliphant for funding.

On Tuesday, county councilors did not take a vote on the requested $68,000 appropriation, which would cover the contract with Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute Center for Health and Justice Research.

That approval could come at the county council’s next regular meeting, which is set for Feb. 9.

Responding to a question from councilor Kate Wiltz, Oliphant said the study of decision making in her office is separate from a comprehensive criminal justice system review that the county commissioned. Wiltz described the final report from the comprehensive review as expected “at some point, hopefully, in the very near future.”

Oliphant described the comprehensive review as having “a very different purpose and scope” from the study of her office. According to Oliphant, the question to be answered by the comprehensive review is: “How we can impact the jail population—who’s being held in jail for how long?” She added another question, “And how can we improve court processes to get those folks out of jail?”

The study that Oliphant now wants the county council to consider is focused “specifically on prosecutorial decision making,” she said. The study of her office won’t focus just on the jail population, but will include everyone impacted by prosecutorial decision making, even those people who might not see a day in jail, she said.

The researcher who would be conducting the study is Eric Grommon, an applied criminologist in the O’Neill School at IUPUI. Continue reading “Monroe County prosecutor asks for analysis of possible racial justice disparities in own office”

Committee gets more perspective on police as Bloomington city council weighs 2021 budget proposal to swap out sworn officers

A Wednesday night meeting of the Bloomington city council’s standing committee on public safety put some new information about Bloomington’s police department in front of the four-member group.

Committee member Isabel Piedmont-Smith told Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff, who was on hand to answer questions, “I was shocked. I was shocked that BPD sometimes uses no-knock warrants.”

Wednesday’s committee meeting, chaired by council vice president Jim Sims, came in the context of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s 2021 budget proposal. The 2021 budget proposes to swap five authorized sworn officer positions for two social workers, two neighborhood resource officers, and a data analyst. The final version of the budget gets presented on Sept. 30.

Piedmont-Smith’s shock was a reaction to the police department’s written answers to questions from committee members. The department’s answers had been given to the committee earlier in the day.

The committee questions included this one: “Does BPD ever serve warrants or for any reason enter homes without knocking?” The written response led off with a simple acknowledgment: “Yes, but they are rare.”

The written response also includes a description of the constraints on no-knock warrants: They’re subject to judicial review, and must get an approval that’s separate from the application for a warrant. They’re supposed to be used only in situations where waiting for someone to answer the knock would be futile or dangerous to the officers serving the warrant.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Piedmont-Smith asked Diekhoff: “Can you guarantee me that a situation like Breonna Taylor cannot happen in Bloomington?”

Continue reading “Committee gets more perspective on police as Bloomington city council weighs 2021 budget proposal to swap out sworn officers”

Bloomington public safety report: 2019 was “tough year” with a few bright spots

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Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, introduces the public safety report for 2020 on Tuesday morning at Bloomington Police Department headquarters on 3rd Street. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

On Tuesday morning, Bloomington officials presented the city’s 2020 public safety report, a summary of activity and outcomes for the 2019 calendar year.

Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, introduced the three presenters: police chief Mike Diekhoff; community and family resources director Beverly Calender-Anderson; and fire chief Jason Moore.

Hamilton called 2019 a “tough year” because of rises in gun violence and violent crime. Against that, mayor pointed to increased funding for programs that are meant to de-escalate situations before they become violent, the new social worker who works in the police department, the new crisis diversion center, and a new substation in Switchyard Park.

Despite the increase in violent crime, the overall crime rate for the city of Bloomington decreased by 4.7 percent in 2019, it was reported on Tuesday morning. Continue reading “Bloomington public safety report: 2019 was “tough year” with a few bright spots”