FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Recently, a video depicting a Champaign Police Officer making an arrest was released to City Council members. Somehow, copies of that video made it into the hands of persons outside of the City Council and as a result, snippets from the video have been shown on the news and even on the Internet.
The Union is deeply dismayed that some members of the public, the City Manager and even the Mayor have publicly stated or suggested that the officer’s actions were improper. These individuals have absolutely no police or use of force training, and base their opinions on a snippet of a video that was actually nearly an hour long.
The officer in question gave the subject lawful commands and instructions yet the subject chose to ignore them. A citizen does not have the right to ignore the lawful order of a police officer or to choose which officer he or she wishes to deal with.
Ultimately, the officer had to use force. By law and department policy, use of force mechanisms are intended to inflict pain in order to gain compliance and control. While use of force scenarios may not be pleasant to watch, that does not make them inappropriate. Tools such as pepper spray are given to officers in order to ensure the safety of officers and the citizenry.
The use of pepper spray in this matter, as well as the other actions taken to control the subject, were within department policy and the law. The subject was resisting with enough force to cause a serious injury to one of the other officer’s on the scene.
Under the law, an officer’s use of force can be judged only by looking at the TOTALITY of circumstances that the officer faced when he used force. The snapshots of the video which are being shown do not depict the totality of circumstances that the officer in question faced. So to judge that officer solely on a video snippet is contrary to the law and department policy regarding use of force.
Further, such unsubstantiated and negative opinions are irresponsible. These public statements fuel the fire of some citizens who regularly scrutinize and criticize the professional men and women who serve on the Champaign Police Department.
An internal investigation has already determined that the officer’s actions were within the law and department policy. The City Manager requested that the Illinois State Police conduct an investigation. The State’s Attorney declined to pursue its own investigation but concurred with the request. The Union is confident that an investigation by the Illinois State Police will also show that the officer committed no wrongdoing. Until then, publicly criticizing the officer only serves to divide the community and demoralize a professional and nationally recognized police department.
General Counsel, IFOP Labor Council