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.

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mankind wrote on December 13, 2011 at 8:12 am

All the reports in the world aren't going to make it easier to take the necessary step of disciplining the police officer and sending police the message that they aren't the ultimate boss in this town. Save the money and just do what's right. Be a leader.

ronaldo wrote on December 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm

"Necessary" discipline would indicate that there was wrongdoing on the part of the officer, but seeing that three agencies reviewed the case and procedures and found NO wrongdoing on the part of the officer, please elaborate from where this necessity was derived.  Not liking the result of the investigations is not grounds for discipline.

mankind wrote on December 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Sure, go ahead and stick to the reports. Most of us give our preconceived notions a hard look in the mirror when presented with video evidence to the contrary, but you're entitled to keep searching for things that confirm your point of view.

ronaldo wrote on December 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm

So, correct me if I'm wrong, but you're not going to be happy until some person/group/organization releases a fiding that indicates that the police acted improperly?

mankind wrote on December 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I want a thorough report and not arrogant 2-liners from other police agencies that say to the world that they're above review. I want a report that goes into why the officer zeroed in on the accuser when the video showed numerous other jaywalkers in the same vicinity at the same time, and why the officer felt it necessary to zap him in the face with pepper spray when the accuser was complying with the arrest. I want to know what procedure they were following when they drove him to a dark parking lot and roughed him up without reading him his rights. I'll grant that it did seem like procedure, right down to the second when the other officer gave him the roll sign. The question is whether it was appropriate procedure, and it sure didn't look like it. As the city council said, a thorough report would be fair to the officer, too. Maybe he had good reasons for his actions that didn't show up in the video -- but I kind of think the police union would be trumpeting it to the skies by now if he did.

fortherecord wrote on December 13, 2011 at 8:12 am

Continuing to waste my tax dollars. Thanks Champaign.

gpence wrote on December 13, 2011 at 8:12 am

I'm not sure I understand the City's logic here. The City did an internal review (local level). The City had the Illinois State Police (state level) review it. Then the City had the FBI (national level) review it. All 3 have said it was appropriate use of force and/or did not violate the citizen's rights. Someone in the "City Administration" seems intent on getting *someone* to say it was wrong, so why don't we ask the United Nations to review it on the international level -- after all, the U.N. finds fault with everything Americans do! 

 

Seriously though, after local, state and federal reviews found similar results, I don't see the need to spend $60,000 - $100,000 on yet another review...

readone wrote on December 13, 2011 at 8:12 am

Like the city has that much money that it can be wasted on another "independent" investigation.  The officer followed the procedures in place at the time, if you want to change the procedures, fine change them.  It seems that members of the city government and "civic" leaders will not be happy until an officer is killed in the line of duty.  The polic officers and there families need to be safe also.

ronaldo wrote on December 13, 2011 at 8:12 am

I'm confused, or at least I'll pretend to be for the sake of discussion.

Aren't the "non-lethal" methods of restraint (ie., pepper spray, rubber ballistics, stun guns, etc.)the preferred methods, and in response to complaints about the use of "lethal" methods?  Weren't these forms of restraint supposed to replace guns in order to appease those who believe in disarming the police?

Why is this issue even being discussed???

What's next, investigations into the police calling the criminals names and using harsh language around them?  Will that hurt their sensitive little feelings and cause lifelong emotional damage?

I'm not sure what the Champaign Councils agenda is, but something smells like fish.  Remember, you elected these people.

mankind wrote on December 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I think if you ever got shot in the face with pepper spray you'd be singing a different tune. Maybe the guy in the video deserved to cool it for a few minutes in the squad car. But he didn't deserve to be blasted in the face with pepper-spray. The most threatening thing he did was raise his voice a notch as he was slammed on the hood, and if that counts as "resisting arrest," then tell me where to report for duty as a citizen of North Korea. The reason the city is doing this is because those three reports look so darn silly and out-of-touch when you look at the video.

ronaldo wrote on December 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I'll tell you what - next time I break the law and resist arrest I will ask for the pepper spray and get back to you on that, ok?

In the mean time, why don't you fill us all in on what it's like to be pepper-sprayed since you're confident that I'd be "singing a different tune" and therefore have firsthand experience with it.

And one other thing that the anti-police crowd is forgetting is that this event happened on June 5th, but didn't make the news until after Thanksgiving.  Initial reports stated that the accused didn't even want to pursue the case, but rather just wanted to let it go away.  Spin it any way that you like, but that's a clear indication that even he realized that he was responsible for his actions.

mankind wrote on December 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm

I'm not anti-police. I'm in 100 percent support of GOOD police work, but I am also 100 percent against police officers who are out of control. If that guy in the video had actually lifted one finger to resist he would have deserved what he got. And you name me one lawyer who is willing to go to court with an unwilling client and I'll believe that the accused didn't want to pursue the case. 


Really? You need firsthand experience getting blasted in the face with pepper-spray to know that it's painful? I admit, maybe I have too much empathy with the countless videos of people screaming in agony after getting it in the face. I guess they're all just a bunch of fakers carrying out a secret agenda against the police, right?

ronaldo wrote on December 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm

"If that guy in the video had actually lifted one finger to resist."

Sorry, but he didn't need to lift even one finger to resist arrest.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

"...and I'll believe that the accused didn't want to pursue the case."

I'm sorry that you believe this is some sort of a conspiracy, but that was stated by the offender.

 

Read the comment by justthefactsmaam below to get a better understanding of what this is about.

Yea Right wrote on December 15, 2011 at 9:12 am

By good police work, do you mean u want the police to "let you do what you want, when you want, and how you want?", even if it is breaking the law?  Nice statement mankind.  Just quit breaking the law and you wont have anything to worry about!

mankind wrote on December 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm

By good police work I mean police work that calms the situation, and not pepper-spraying a jaywalker in the face who's actually complying with his arrest. "Just quit breaking the law" sounds like a nice pat answer for this debate but only if you're grasping at straws trying to make up excuses for the officer in the video.

Yea Right wrote on December 16, 2011 at 7:12 am

The kid could of calmed the situation by complying with the officer and stop running his mouth.  No grasping at straws here, no excuses to make, the officer did what needed to be done, thats good police work.  If you dont comply with the officer instructions and continue to run your mouth, thats what happens.  The kid got what he deserved. 

cmstites wrote on December 13, 2011 at 9:12 am

We have the money to waste on another review?  But we dont have the money to keep the john street firestation open.

A Very Busy Mom wrote on December 13, 2011 at 9:12 am

And yet we are going to reduce the services of Fire Station Number 4 because we don't have the money to run it.

I am beyond words on what this City is doing!!!!!

 

Three reviews with the same answer - keep looking until you find what you are looking for I guess.  This is crazy.

Maybe it is itime to clean house at the next election.

 

gftst wrote on December 13, 2011 at 9:12 am

The city seriously needs to get its priorities straight. The Police Departments policies have already been certified by a national firm as having basically no issues and were going to now spend potentially $100,000 to try and confirm otherwise???? I also heard the city recently spent in the neighorhood of $60,000 to bring in two instructors for a class for city employees. Can the city really afford to be doing this when their talking about reducing fire fighters and police officers. Come on city council you need to get your priorities in order or its going to cost you in the long run,.

bremax wrote on December 13, 2011 at 10:12 am

How hard do homeowners have to work to generate $100k for the city?  And then you just turn around and waste that money?

You already made a federal case out of this, and the FBI found nothing.  Now you are going to waste A LOT more money redoing this thing for a fourth time? 

 

Wasteful and divisive.

 

 

jmh910 wrote on December 13, 2011 at 10:12 am

So after three reviews, that all concluded there was no misuse of force, we need to spend $60-100,000 on ANOTHER review?  What happens if this independent review comes to the same conclusion? Where does the line get drawn? Regardless of where you stand on the issue, this is a high cost to the taxpayers.


The City wants to close fire departments due to lack of funds, but they have money for this.  I just don't get it.


 

justthefactsmaam wrote on December 13, 2011 at 10:12 am

It would seem to me that we would'nt be having all this hoopla if this young man had simply stopped when asked to do so by the police. Sadly some of our young people have decided that the police are out to "get them" and that they do not have to listen to anything that anybody tells them. Mayor Gerard is only going to re-enforce this notion by pushing his agenda of finding wrong doing by the police dept facts be damned.


 

ronaldo wrote on December 13, 2011 at 10:12 am

+1

lovie_01 wrote on December 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

I agree with this. 

Why do people feel they can break the law, and then resist arrest and expect to be treated courteously?  If he had obeyed the law, no matter what his opinion of it was, he wouldn't have been in the situation he was in.  The police need to be able to do their jobs, and in my opinion criminals should be scared to get caught.

Now if police were gathering up completely innocent people and doing this, I could understand but this seems like they are just trying to find someone that agrees with whatever they do.

CULater wrote on December 13, 2011 at 10:12 am

What a joke. Dumping the city's hard earned money into pointless reviews. Maybe it was appropriate use of force maybe it wasn't. I agree we give police the right to use non lethal force but that doesn't give them a right to abuse power. And if the city spends a dime on an indendent review that is also an abuse of power. Let the victim and his lawyer handle that. This city is falling apart over misuse of funds like this. It's almost time for a complete overhaul of the system.  Stop wasting my money!

personali wrote on December 13, 2011 at 10:12 am

It is going to take more than complaining about this and other issues on the News-Gazette website.  Maybe if more CHAMPAIGN (not Urbana) citizens voiced their opinions to the city council they would have a better understanding as to how the real majority feels about issues, rather than just listening to the Martel Miller's of the world.  This city council and administration are a joke regardless.

Sid Saltfork wrote on December 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

Whoa..... The young man was arrested in the vicinity of Joe's Brewery.   If you have police "harrassing" jaywalkers at that time of night on Green Street; it is bad business for the bars, and the Liquor Commissioner (mayor).   Of course if some U of I student from the suburbs gets assaulted by locals roaming the streets at that time of night, the police will be blamed also.  Let's all sign a pledge, or put our mark on it, stating that Champaign is a Crime Free City; and eliminate the police.  It would free up more money for projects like the Summer Youth Program, potholes, firefighters, library, and consultants.  What would the police do in the recent assault at the train terminal?   Gee.... no pepper spray, no batons, no tazers, no hitting; only use a gun, or negotiate?    

Chief Illini wrote on December 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

This is unbelievable!  There have been more than enough reviews, seems to me the "mayor" and "city manager" are just out to make a name for themselves and totally and completely harrass police officers and the department in general.  Does the city want a new chief?  I can't imagine any officer wanting that position now.  Or is this what they are trying to do, eliminate three so the Urbana individual gets the position?  The people of Champaign had better  put their foot down and stop this bs or if the so called "leaders" get their way there will be a police force that is not allowed to do their job.  Can you imagine the increase in crime if these criminals know the police are not allowed to actuall serve and protect?

champaignfreedom wrote on December 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Mayor Don Gerard campaigned and blogged on cutting 10 percent from the city administrator salaries. He also stated that he was supportive of the Police Dispatch having nighttime hours. So much for campaign promises. We wanted change but got a younger version of his predecessor who is a little too loose with our tax dollars.

The city is wasting our tax dollars with this continuing of the investigation.  $100,000 would pay a lot of salary for the fire and police department. So would cutting City Manager Steve Carter's $170,000+ a year salary along with his half million dollar staff of five.

Citizens must speak up for their men and women who serve us as fire fighters and police officers. They are having their first amendment freedom of speech suppressed by Mayor Gerard and the city. They need our voice.

If they pass the additional review, after three other reviews, I would not be surprised if they look to vote further tax increases to start to pay for these expenditures, further cut our services or worse they probably will do both.

It is time that every public employee and concerned citizen needs to start going to their city council meetings, regardless where you reside.  Write the mayor and the city council. Let them know how you feel.

Strong local government is the keystone to preserving human freedom! It begins at home!

bluegrass wrote on December 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I'm a little unclear what you mean you say that Don Gerard is a younger version of his predecessor.  I don't see any similarities at all.

 

Citizens speak up through their elections.  You want to send a message, you should have voted for a man who actually had a great track record as mayor in this town.  You want to send a message that you support law enforcement, you should have voted for a man who spent time in the department.  Instead, much like Obama, the citizenry managed to elect a man with absolutely no management experience and very limited experience with public office.

 

You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.

 

 

champaignfreedom wrote on December 13, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Actually, I did vote for his predicessor but WE as a city voted for our current mayor. Lots of the cuts that were on the table under Schweighart are currently being implimented despite the promises to the contrary.  I blame Steve Carter. Taxes are also going up and our Mayor is finding ways to spend them.  By the way I never voted for Obama either, so don't even go there.

bluegrass wrote on December 14, 2011 at 9:12 am

Okay, okay.  I just figured since you wrote that "we wanted change" you were a Gerard supporter. 

 

So then that begs the question, what change did you want?

jdmac44 wrote on December 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I think it's time to start attending City Council meetings regularly, this is unbelievable.

pattsi wrote on December 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Quite possibly, the first and overlaying question that needs an answer is: how is it possible that the Urbana police along with special policy units called in were able to bring to closure a many hours standoff in apartments on North Broadway yesterday early morning without a shot being fired and everyone alive and as far as reported no pepper spray or tasering? This might be useful information to have before another report is requested.

I concur community folks might consider attending any of the important decision making meetings within our communities, whether city council, county board, MTD, church board, mental health, etc.

IU1977 wrote on December 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Pattsi-

 

They gave up.  The police did not attempt to go in and get them.  They talked them into surrendering, which is the same for virtually all of these types of callouts.  Now, could gas have been introduced into the home to get them to come out?  Sure...but they gave up before that option was used.  Again.... YOUR Sheriffs department carrys tasers.   Spend more money to determine if they should use them or not.

champaignfreedom wrote on December 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Patsi -

They also called in the Champaign SWAT team and other agencies. No hostage, surrounded by an overwelming force tends to lead over time to get folks to surrender or shoot it out.  Luckly they took the former option. Not sure that is an applicable situation here. 

Joe American wrote on December 13, 2011 at 9:12 pm

According to Donny, we can't move forward until this process has been properly vetted.


So Donny, exactly what does that mean?  Does it mean until you get the result that YOU are looking for?

read the DI wrote on December 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Whiners whine. Why am I surprised.