Champaign council to weigh new review of arrest
CHAMPAIGN — The city council this week is scheduled to revisit a controversial June 2011 arrest, over which Champaign police officers and some community members are divided about whether an appropriate amount of force was used to detain a 19-year-old black man.
With council approval, the city would pay up to $85,000 for CAG Consulting to review the incident and help respond to a citizen complaint against the police officer. The consultant also would examine and potentially make recommendations for changes to the police department's "use of force" policy.
The city council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
It has been a recurring topic since November, when details of the incident began circulating. A police video of the arrest was about to leak, and City Manager Steve Carter and State's Attorney Julia Rietz asked the Illinois State Police to review what Carter called a "troubling" summer arrest.
Since the arrest, the Champaign Police Department, Illinois State Police and FBI have all said the officer did not commit any violations of policy or law when he apparently stopped a man for jaywalking.
In the video, Officer Patrick Simons asks then-19-year-old Brandon Ward to stop near the corner of Fourth and Green streets. Simons pepper sprays Ward after bringing him back to the squad car, and later in the video, Simons grabs Ward at the neck in the back seat.
City officials have said the first three reviews have been incomplete, and they believe an independent consultant can deliver a more thorough examination of the arrest and the city's use-of-force policy.
But the city's police union has called for city officials to end what they call an excessive investigation. Union officials have said Simons followed city policy, and one officer has said the repeated investigations amount to a "witch hunt."
In a report to city council, city administrators say contracting with CAG Consulting would assist Carter in his response to the citizen complaint, which had been dismissed by now-retired Police Chief R.T. Finney but was later appealed. It is also an opportunity to look at the policies and tactics used in that situation, and to "see what can be learned" for the future.
CAG Consulting is led by Charles A. Gruber, who has been chief of police in three Illinois cities and served as president of both the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
"Citizens deserve to know what happened," the report said. "This is an opportunity to help the public understand the total situation in which the incident occurred as well as the incident itself."