Live blog: Thursday's police chief candidates forum
Got a chance to catch up with Mayor Don Gerard after the interviews. He said each candidate brings something different to the job, but stopped short of endorsing any particular one.
He said he had already sat in interviews with all the candidates, so he was more interested in how the audience was reacting to what they said. He said it was a very attentive and thoughtful audience.
It's not a debate, though, and the community isn't voting for any of the candidates. To put in a word for your favorite candidate, you'll need to contact the mayor or city council.
"I would encourage people to not say they like one person the best," Gerard said. "Really tell us why" you like that person.
After the search committee completes its interviews tomorrow, City Manager Steve Carter will make his appointment in January.
Then in February or early March, the police chief should be in his new office.
In closing, Johnson says all four candidates are interested in making a difference in the community.
"We can work together and make sure we're a part of the community, just like anyone else," Johnson says.
That's it for the interviews. I'll have a few closing remarks here, too, before long, so don't go away quite yet.
"It's important for us to have continuous use of force training," and to review that training every year, Johnson says.
Once a year in East Lansing, the officers sit in a room and read the 12-page use-of-force policy aloud. Johnson says it makes him feel like he's in fourth grade, but it's effective.
As for cultural training, Johnson says it's not a panacea.
"Training is important, it's nice to have it, it's a good foundation, but we have to develop a culture in the organization of respect," Johnson says.
Once again, communication is key to repairing damage that has been done to police-community relations by high-profile incidents.
"Hopefully, it's a group effort," Johnson says.
Johnson says East Lansing, Mich., does not have a citizen review board and he does not favor a board.
"Our community supports the police," Johnson says.
But he asks the community for time to "try and make our investigations a little more transparent."
"As long as we're doing everything the right way, treating people with dignity and respect, we'll be OK," Johnson says.
He also does not favor a residency requirement. His job as a police chief is to recruit te best talent for the force, and that might be people from other communities.
Johnson says a change of leadership is a good time to "get things moving in the right direction."
"I think any time when a change of leadership takes place, it's a time to get to know each other and see where the morale is," Johnson says.
The black and white legal issues are one thing. The gray issues on the table are very difficult to discuss in the command structure, but it's very important to do so, he says.
Johnson says he has expertise in community policing and staff development. And he's got an interest and desire to work with people on an individual basis, he says.
He grew up in Detroit, he says, and was raised to treat others with dignity and respect.
He says it's important to be open with the citizens.
"I think, first of all, we have to start out with just getting back into the community," he says.
Filla making her closing remarks -- she's spent 38 years in St. Louis and feels like she's growing stagnant.
"I'm looking for a new challenge, and I think this is a lovely city," Filla says.
Capt. Kim Johnson of the East Lansing, Mich., police department is up next. He's spent a lot of time in the home of Michigan State University.
All three candidates so far quickly answer that they would incorporate "cultural and linguistic training" into the department. Filla says our communities are evolving.
Filla says she would go out to "educate the community" on the use of pepper spray and TASERs (although officers in Champaign don't carry those). She says the officers need to be educated, too -- sometimes they are too quick to use force instead of trying to de-escalate a situation with a conversation.
"So, again, it goes back to communication between the police department and the citizens," she says.
Filla says a citizen review board is recurring issue in St. Louis, too. She says research has shown that such a board doesn't change the outcome of complaints too often, but it does lead to a better understanding.
"Most cities have issues with internal affairs and complaints against police officers," she says. "I personally do not think a citizen's review board is anything bad. I don't think a police department should have anything to hide."
She says officers worry that a review board means everyone is going to get fired, but that's far from the case. She says it's about re-establishing trust with the community.
Filla seems to have her finger right on the pulse of what has been going on in the Champaign department.
"Every agency goes through a period where morale is low or it's diminished, and it's usually over some kind of incident that happened between the community and the department, and the officers don't think the department reacted in a certain way," Filla says.
The way to boost morale is to treat officers with respect and treat them fairly, she says.
"I've found that if you treat everyone fairly, they'll do just about anything for you," Filla says.
Filla is running down her resume in her opening statement. It's a laundry list, to say the least, and impressive. She's worked in every division of the St. Louis Metropolition Police Department (which is unique in that it's run by the state of Missouri, not the city).
She's worked in North St. Louis, which she describes as "depressed." The residents there felt the police department and the city had neglected them. It was considered a "dumping ground" for officers.
"I was there for six or seven years and it took quite a few years to change that reputation," Filla says.
By the time she left that area, she says, she had officers asking to work there.
Filla also echoes Anderson on how to improve the relationship between the police department and the black community.
"To get change, you need communication," Filla says.
And she says both sides have to work together.
"I'm not going to go into a community and tell you want your problems are," she says.
"I realize this is a big opportunity for the community," Anderson says of the open position. In his closing statements, he says he'll bring a lot of passion.
We're halfway through. Lt. Col. Antionette Filla is up next. She's got 38 years in St. Louis, folks. That's no easy job.
Anderson says appropriate use of force is "what a reasonable police officer would do at that time."
"We cannot go back in hindsight," he says.
But, before an incident occurs, if the use-of-force police is not clear for every police officer in the department, that's a failure of management, Anderson says.
Communication is the key to repairing the damage done by high-profile police incidents, Anderson says.
"You have to communicate with the community. We as police officers, police chiefs, can't be afraid to tell the truth," Anderson says.
With a residency requirement, you tend to limit your possible candidate pool, Anderson says.
"Champaign is a fine city, it's a place that I would love to call home, but there are some people with children in schools ... It may not be conducive for them to move," he says.
A citizen review board is a city council decision, Anderson says, but if council members want one, he'll do everything he can to make it successful.
That's because department brass have to be ready to admit that, sometimes, police misconduct does occur. "But I would hope that there are other ways to do it by the police department being much more open with the public."
"Building public trust and maintaining public trust is the cornerstone of successful policing," Anderson says.
This is interesting. The question about police department morale comes back, and Anderson has a view different than Cobb's.
"Some of the people that I've talked to in the police department, I don't necessarily get that indication," Anderson says.
Anderson has been a police chief now for four years, particularly in coming in and taking a look at a department's current operations and making them work.
Kato asks him what he would do to improve relations between the department and the African-American community, but he says he refuses to single out only the African-American community. As police chief, he says it's his job to treat everyone in the community exactly the same.
In his opening statement, Anderson said he had to do a double-take when he say the job posting.
"The Champaign Police Department has an outstanding reputation with other law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Illinois," Anderson says.
What sold him on applying for the job, he says, is his experience at a Champaign Community and Police Partnership meeting last month.
He was "extremely excited" in hearing the community's involvement in the police department.
Cobb makes his closing statement with an appeal to the citizens. "It's going to take each and every one of you to be part of that solution."
We have an idea of what the questions look like now, and a lot of them revolve around persistent issues: use of force, police-community relations, residency requirements, citizen review board.
Oak Forest Police Chief Gregory Anderson is up next.
Cobb is addressing use-of-force. It's going to require some work, he says. You have a few incidents here recently where the law says one thing and the community doesn't like what the law says.
"I will say it's a learning opportunity," Cobb says.
Kato asks a direct question about the high-profile police incidents, including the fatal police shooting of Kiwane Carrington in October 2009. How will he repair police-community relations?
It has to be a "multi-front" approach, he says, within the department and out in the community. The police officers continue to work very hard.
"The day-to-day operations of the agency has never stopped," Cobb says. "I have never heard of any 9-1-1 call that didn't get answered."
Still, there are issues.
"At the same token, morale is very low, and there are going to be some issues that have to be dealt with," Cobb says.
Cobb says he was very involved when Urbana set up its citizen review board. At that time, he was also the police union president.
"I said it then, and I'll say it again," Cobb says. "A citizen review board could be a great thing when done correctly."
He says Urbana didn't get it exactly right.
"We've got a good citizen review board, but it's an oversight board," he says. It should be more of an open dialogue.
Previously, Kato asked a question about the department's morale and how he plans to improve it. Cobb says any new chief will have to build (or mend) some bridges within the department to get support from the rank-and-file.
"If a new chief truly wants to be successful in this community, he needs to get buy-in, not only from the community, but from the department," Cobb says.
How will he improve community relations, Kato asks.
"I'll give more credibility to the position right off the bat," Cobb says.
He says a lot of people already work with him. And he promises he would be out in the community.
"I need to be accessible to the community and the people," Cobb says. "In order to do that, you gotta see me."
Anthony Cobb, currently Urbana's assistant chief of police, is up first.
During his 3-minute opening statement, he calls great attention to his local roots. His family moved here in the 1930s, and he is a product of Champaign public schools. He's a member of The Church of the Living God, and he was Urbana's first community policing officer.
He says his 19 years at the Urbana police department has prepared him to address the challenges that the community now faces.
"Because I'm a product of the community, I have ties to the community," he says.
Almost ready to get going here. Dr. Sandra Kato is tonight's moderator. Not a huge turnout tonight.
The four finalists to replace retiring Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney during a crucial time for the police department will be in the city council chambers tonight at 7 p.m. to make their case to the public.
I'll be there, too, typing away as fast as I can, so keep an eye here for real-time reporting and analysis of the candidates' comments.
The forum is open to the public and will be televised on CGTV channel 5. Send your questions to me in the comments section here or on Twitter, @patrick_wade.