Champaign officials want more feedback on community-police relations

Champaign officials want more feedback on community-police relations

CHAMPAIGN – City officials this week are asking for further feedback on goals to improve the relationship between the community and the police force that were developed following a March 15 community forum.

The city has set up a website  where users can comment on an outline of initiatives based on about 300 community members' comments during the March meeting.

"Our goal from day one was to keep the community engaged in this process," said Joan Walls, the city's deputy city manager for community relations.

Bill Glithero, a member of the working group and the city's Human Relations Commission, said the group is looking for input from groups that did not participate directly in the first steps of the process, "so that we can put together a plan that everyone has a part of and can be a part of."

That way, Glithero said, groups that will need to take part in the outlined actions "have a vested interest in making sure this program works."

City officials also contacted the forum attendees to ask them to make sure the plan was consistent with what they suggested during the forum.

"This plan is what citizens said," Walls said. "So we don't want to stray away. We don't want to change content."

The March 15 forum and the plan presented on the website complete one of six initiatives announced in January that city officials hope will help repair the relationship between police and community members that was strained following the October 2009 fatal police shooting of 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington.

Walls said a working group has met more than 10 times since April to review 43 pages' worth of unedited comments city officials received from the roughly 300 attendees of the forum. Members of that group looked for "common themes" in the comments.

"When we begin to sift through unedited, raw data, we came across many other areas in the community where there was perhaps a void," Walls said.

Some of the general themes presented in the new plan include creating partnerships with community organizations and engaging and developing youth.

Other goals include developing a "community coalition" of vested groups to develop specific goals and implementing diversity and culturally-based training, hiring and recruitment for police officers.

Glithero said the action steps are "some things to actually make the goals work in the community."

When users view the report online, some action items will appear blank.

"Intentionally, there were action items in the plan that were left blank because we know that this is a document we will build upon," Walls said.

City officials will present the report and user feedback to the city council on Aug. 24. From there, the first goal would be to develop the community coalition, Walls said.

"This will be a coalition of some of the initial organizations that will really be able to play a part in some of those action items," Walls said.

That includes "organizations that can have an impact on youth, family, police-community relations," Walls said.

Whether city officials will organize another large scale community forum in the future has yet to be decided.

"There's nothing that's scheduled, but I think it was very important for us to come together," Walls said.

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