Champaign council to vote on review of pepper spray arrest, use-of-force policy
CHAMPAIGN — With council approval tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 13), the city would be ready to spend between $60,000 and $100,000 to have an independent expert review the circumstances of a June 5 arrest and complete a broader review of the police department's use-of-force policy.
The city council will meet at 7 p.m. today at the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
The special request for an outside consultant follows public scrutiny of the summer arrest for which an officer pepper sprayed a man he apparently stopped for jaywalking. Community members have made their conflicting views known at council meetings — some say the officer inappropriately used force on the man, and others say the officer appropriately subdued a man who was threatening to resist arrest.
Officials have already completed a number of steps to review the complaints. Last month, City Manager Steve Carter and State's Attorney Julia Rietz asked the state police to review the incident, and the agency determined the officer's actions were within the local police department's policy.
City officials also requested an FBI review of the incident. The bureau determined the officer committed no criminal civil rights violations during the arrest.
The two police reviews have not stopped some groups of citizens from alleging police misconduct following the leak of a dashboard camera video of the arrest, which Carter last month called "troubling."
Still pending is an official citizen complaint against the officer. That was filed in July, and Police Chief R.T. Finney during the summer dismissed the complaint after he found no evidence that the arresting officer's actions were inconsistent with department policy.
The complaint and the use-of-force policy would become the subject of review for an independent consultant if the city council gives its approval tonight. The complaint was reopened after the citizen appealed the chief's decision to the city manager, and Carter would ask that the independent expert review the arrest to determine if the officer acted inappropriately.
Officials also want to take another look at the use-of-force policy, which guides police officers' decisions on how to detain individuals they are trying to arrest.
The city has yet to retain any independent consultants, but according to a memo to the city council, "The goal is to retain individuals who bring to bear on the issues the requisite expertise to speak to the interests of the community, the members of the Police Department, and the City as a whole."
According to the memo, the city attorney and deputy chief of police would act as the liaison between the city and the consultant, and the review could take several months.