Citizen complaints against Champaign police have received special attention this week, so I figured it relevant to give a rundown of the most recent summary report, which was finalized last week.
City officials settled 15 complaints through the third quarter of 2011. As of Oct. 19, six were still pending. (A number which, on average, is roughly similar to the number of incoming complaints during the previous several years). It's hard to point to any particular cause of why the number might rise slightly, but that's not necessarily indicative of increased police misconduct. It could be the result of higher media attention to the police complaint process during the past couple years. It could also be increased public displeasure with how citizens are being policed, or it might be statistically insignificant.
Of those 15 settled through the third quarter, three were "sustained," meaning police officials found the allegations in the complaint to be verifiable and discipline was administered. Often that can mean a letter of reprimand. All of the complaints that were sustained were matters of discourtesy.
Keep in mind that police officers also receive letters, calls or emails that compliment them on their work. To date, Champaign police officers have received 30 such compliments in all three quarters of 2011.
My personal favorite is an April thank-you letter, in which an "officer was thanked by subject for arresting her with professionalism." You have to admit that's impressive.
I'll also point out that The News-Gazette appeal regarding the names of officers in police complaints is still pending, but the deadline for a legally binding resolution is quickly approaching. In June, I filed a Freedom of Information request with the city seeking a list of four years' worth of police complaints and the identities of the officers named in those complaints. The city readily provided me with the complaints, but citing a privacy exemption in the law, city officials redacted the officers' names.
This occurred after a nearly identical request the previous year with the same result. I also appealed that earlier denial, but the Attorney General's public access counselor spent about a year investigating the matter. The time limit for the public access counselor to issue a binding decision is 60 days. Eventually, the office opined that the city should have released the names of the officers in the complaints, but with the decision being non-binding, the city maintained its refusal.
The public access counselor has already extended the deadline on my current appeal, and the office must issue an opinion by Oct. 31 if it is to be legally binding.