With council approval of changes to the police complaint process this week, the city has completed four of the six initiatives City Manager Steve Carter presented to improve police-community relations following the October 2009 fatal police shooting of Kiwane Carrington.
Really, it's more like 3.5 out of the six, because a written report of a committee studying the responses from the March 15 community forum is forthcoming.
So here's a review and status update on the six:
1. Follow through on changes to the Use of Force Policy.
Check. In January, the city council unanimously approved changes to the policy. The revised version contains more guidance to officers on particular scenarios, Police Chief R.T. Finney said at the time. Particularly, it spells out when it is appropriate for officers to draw their firearms, and when it is allowable to request Tasers from other agencies.
2. Review the current police complaint process and make recommendations to the City Council for improvements based on citizen feedback.
Check. Those changes were approved this week. Complaint packets will be made more accessible, mediation will be added as an option, reports will be more detailed and the city will educate the public about the process.
3. Bring in persons from outside the City structure to review the investigation report to date and direct further investigation if needed, making recommendations to the City Manager for improvements to policy and training.
Check. Advisers Eddie Adair and John Freese wrote in their report that Officer Daniel Norbits mishandled his gun, resulting in the fatal shooting of Mr. Carrington. City Manager Steve Carter consequently issued a 30-day suspension for Norbits (which has since been appealed).
4. Review the police officer recruitment and selection process with the objective of greater community participation, including community representatives on the Chief’s interview panel. Frankly, we need to do a better job of recruiting, hiring and retaining more African American, Latino and women police officers, but we need the community’s help.
This is one of the two that are still in the works, Carter told me today. A committee has been working on this one, and we should see a report toward the end of July. Carter said the group has been focusing their efforts on adding community members to the police chief's interview panel toward the end of the officer selection process. This would add some citizen input to who gets a job at the Champaign Police Department.
Carter said the group is seeking by "word-of-mouth" who from the community might be interested in sitting on that panel. "We’ve identified folks who might have some kind of employee relations background," he added.
5. Work with African American community members to create a new police officer community orientation program which will allow a new officer to positively build relationships and understanding of the African American community. We want our officers deeply immersed into the community. We want them to personally know the people they are protecting and serving.
Another one still in the works. A separate working group has identified some changes they want in the police officer training process, and we should also see this report toward the end of July. It will outline for new officers "things that we want them to do in addition to the formal police training," Carter said. That includes more community contact at the beginning of their employment.
6. Support the City Council and the Human Relations Commission in hosting a Community Forum, to allow citizens, police, youth and agencies serving youth, including the school district and park district, to identify police and community issues and suggest solutions.
Half-check. As detailed above, a working group currently is preparing a report based on the responses of those who attended the March 15 forum. City officials will then have to find a way for the city to take action based on those responses.
So that's where we are on the six initiatives. Carter said he is pleased with how quickly the city has been able to move on this, however it's not the "be all and end all" on the city's part.
"They're initial steps," Carter said. "Over time, I’ll think they’ll be helpful."
So I want to hear from you. What do you think about the steps the city has taken since the Kiwane Carrington shooting?