Champaign mayor urges against 'divisive action or words'
CHAMPAIGN — Mayor Don Gerard on Monday called for the community to act "responsibly" following the city's announcement this weekend that the Illinois State Police will be investigating a June 5 arrest in which a Champaign police officer may have used an excessive amount of force.
He said he believes City Manager Steve Carter and State's Attorney Julia Rietz took the appropriate steps in calling for an independent investigation, and he hopes all involved "respect the process."
In his written statement, Gerard says this is "not a time for divisive action or words."
"This is a critical moment for our City," Gerard said in the prepared statement. "We must all be accountable and willing to devote ourselves to work together. This is a time to strive for unity."
The events come not long after a debate about an October arrest precipitated tense moments between audience members and representatives during city council meetings, which have been well-attended in the weeks since. After the city posted video of the Oct. 24 arrest, some specific claims from community activists about police actions during that arrest were disproved.
But for the June 5 arrest, video footage is having the opposite effect.
"As soon as I saw the video (of the arrest), I was upset and said, 'Something needs to be done about this,'" Gerard told The News-Gazette on Monday.
On Saturday, City Manager Steve Carter said the events in the video of the June 5 arrest were "troubling," particularly "the thinking behind the initial stop and the use of pepper spray, the timing on that and some of the tactics used during the course of the arrest," Carter said.
He added that the investigation into an official complaint filed by the arrestee may not have been complete.
Last week, Rietz dismissed all charges related to the June 5 arrest.
Gerard said the investigation into the arrest and the complaint process is now, appropriately, in the hands of independent experts.
"I would like for both city staff, for police officers and the community to all step up and act responsibly," he said on Monday.
He also asked that the community respect the family's privacy.
"The family has requested this doesn't become a circus. The family has pleaded," Gerard said. "I hope the community respects that and they respect the process."