Prussing's picks for traffic stop task force criticized

Prussing's picks for traffic stop task force criticized

Mayor expected to add an Urbana woman to her list

URBANA — The city's special committee to study police traffic stop data got off to a rocky start this week, before its membership is even finalized.

Mayor Laurel Prussing is facing some criticism over her selections for that task force's membership. The community members who have been the driving force behind a push to get the city to study racial disparities in police stops said this week that they felt important applicants were left off that list.

The mayor's 10 appointments nonetheless got the support of a majority of city council members this week. The task force of four Urbana residents, five from Champaign and one from Sidney is charged with poring over data released annually by the Illinois Department of Transportation that, among other aspects, compares how often drivers of each race are pulled over by police.

Prussing said she is expecting to appoint one more Urbana woman to the task force to fill out the 11-member committee. The list of 10 approved this week includes some familiar names in city circles: Champaign County NAACP president Patricia Avery; Alderman Eric Jakobsson, D-Ward 2; Urbana police Sgt. Andy Charles; former Urbana Police Chief Mike Bily; Champaign Human Relations Commissioner Alejandra Coronel; and Champaign City Council member Will Kyles.

Unlike other city commissions, residency in Urbana was not a prerequisite for appointment to the task force. Prussing and other city officials have said IDOT's traffic stop data is a regional issue — "half the people getting a ticket aren't even from Urbana," she said on Tuesday.

Six of the 11 committee members will be of a minority race: four black people, one of Asian ethnicity and one of Hispanic descent. Prussing's goal was that the task force would "reflect all the different population groups that we have."

"Champaign's twice as big as Urbana," Prussing said. "I didn't do it based on the city per se. I did it based on what they would bring to the table."

City council members on Monday threw up some obstacles before they eventually approved Prussing's appointments in a close voice vote.

Alderwoman Carol Ammons, D-Ward 3, and some other city council members said they wanted to see a full list of applicants — including those who were turned down — before signing off on Prussing's selections.

"Because this has not happened, it makes it difficult for me to support the task force and its current recommendation," Ammons said.

One of the people left out of the appointments was Urbana resident Durl Kruse, who has been the most prominent voice from the community pushing city officials to take another look at the data that shows Urbana police are stopping black drivers at higher rates than whites.

The numbers behind that data are disputable themselves. That is one of the things the task force likely will study.

In addressing the Urbana City Council this week, Kruse did not mention his own lack of appointment, but said he wondered at the logic behind the mayor's selections. Speakers behind him, however, said they wondered why Kruse was left off the list.

"His passion is definitely there," said Alderman Bill Brown, D-Ward 4. "He's done more work than anyone in the community to bringing it to light."

On the other hand, Prussing said Kruse has been a forceful voice. When Urbana officials studied the data a few years ago, Prussing said Kruse insisted on being given extra time to speak at city meetings.

"He kind of demanded to have half an hour to talk," Prussing said. "He's just tried to control this whole thing."

City council members may only suggest that the mayor alter her recommendations for appointments to city jobs and commissions — they cannot change it themselves. Prussing came under fire for an unrelated list of appointments last year, when she excluded the city's accounting supervisor from her annual list of appointments to city jobs.

The accounting supervisor had been in that job for 24 years, and the dismissal is now the source of a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Saying that they had no power to force the mayor's hand, city council members reluctantly approved of that move.

Prussing said Tuesday she's not interested in altering the structure of city government to bow to the demands of a small group of people who have "been agitating for quite a while."

"I got input from council members" on the task force appointments, Prussing said. "They made recommendations, but we have checks and balances in government. My responsibility is to make appointments, and their responsibility is to accept or reject those."

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rsp wrote on April 09, 2014 at 8:04 am

Checks and balances only work if both sides make the effort. If one side is always saying "we don't have any say in the matter", they should just resign and go home. Why are they there? What an embarrassment to democracy.

cretis16 wrote on April 09, 2014 at 8:04 am

And where's Mr.Kilgore? Why is he not on this committee?

youlikeroses wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Best decision she's made in years... involving people from the City of Champaign.

thesimpleman wrote on April 09, 2014 at 1:04 pm

another great waste of my tax money thank you mayor.

how about this could you maybe fix my side walk in front of my house ohh wait i dont have one.

and thank you for the new sidewalks in downtown only the forth time time 7 years they have been worked on.

What a joke this mayor is

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 09, 2014 at 5:04 pm

The primary concern regarding the traffic stops should be whether the driver was violating the law, or not.  Who cares about the race of a driver speeding through a stop sign?  The law is to be the same for all.  There seems to be an assumption that traffic stops for motor violations is racial profiling.  What happens when one group exceeds their racial population percentage for tickets?  Will it be no tickets until next month?  Well... it could happen in Urbana. 

The best way to avoid the controversy is to drive around as in circle Urbana.  As more businesses locate on the outskirts of Urbana, there is little reason to drive into Urbana unless you are going to Traffic Court.  

By the way, where is the Native American on the committee?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on April 12, 2014 at 10:04 pm
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You really don't think black motorists get pulled over more than white motorists?

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 13, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Skip to Scepticity's theory which follows this comment.  Yes, black motorists get pulled over more than white motorists for traffic violations.  The violations are the same; but the racial percentages of the violators differ.  The violations are the same; and white motorists get traffic violations also.  You really don't think that white motorists get a free pass do you?  Also, are all police officers white?  

This Urbana worry about traffic violations reflects the city's extremes in political correctness.  A traffic violation is an illegal act regardless of the race of the motorist. 

alabaster jones 71 wrote on April 13, 2014 at 10:04 pm
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Of course I don't think white motorists get a free pass.  I've seen more than enough evidence to show that they don't get pulled over nearly as often as minorities, though.

"Since (2003), racial data has been publicly available every year. It has shown that black drivers are anywhere from 1.8 to 3.2 times more likely than white drivers to be consent-searched. Latino drivers ranged from 2.9 to 4 times more likely to be searched than their white counterparts."

" 2009, Latino drivers were three times more likely to be subjected to a consent search than white drivers. But white drivers were more than 2.5 times more likely to have contraband found in their car during such a search than Latinos. Numbers were similar for black drivers, and for several years prior as well."

It's not just drivers either.  Pedestrians.....

"In Champaign from 2007 to 2011, 658, or 88 percent, of the 744 jaywalking arrests were of black people.

In Urbana, the percentage of black arrestees for the same crime was even higher during those same years.

From 2007 to 2011, 110, or 91 percent, of the people cited for jaywalking in Urbana were black."

I'd like to think that the police here in C-U don't target blacks disproportionally, but stuff like this makes me wonder.  How often do you think they do jaywalking patrols in Trails of Brittany?  Do you think that it's just a coincidence that about 90% of jaywalking arrests in town are blacks?

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 14, 2014 at 1:04 pm

It is not a question of racial percentages.  It is traffic violations.  The violations are the same for all groups.  If some groups have more violations than other groups, they were committing more violations. 

This is not about pulling someone over to check for registration, and insurance.  This is about someone violating traffic laws; and getting caught.  The traffic violations are issued by police of various racial groups.  The traffic violations are the same for all groups.  That leaves either "racial profiling" of traffic law violators; or some groups committing more traffic law violations than other groups.  How do you racially profile a driver who does not stop at a stop sign?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on April 15, 2014 at 3:04 am
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"If some groups have more violations than other groups, they were committing more violations."

You can think that if you want.  Unless you've ever driven while black or Latino, though, it would be pretty hard for you to know that to be a fact.

The thing is, there are so many traffic violations on the books that even the best driver likely commits multiple violations every time they get behind the wheel.

Do they really care about our safety that much, or is it to make sure they always have an excuse to pull someone over if they want to?

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 15, 2014 at 11:04 am

Yeah, it is all a conspiracy on the part of law enforcement across the country...... ;)

I have not received a traffic violation for over twenty years.  I recently reviewed the Rules of the Road in case I would have to take the test for the upcoming renewal of my driver's license.  They are not that difficult to understand, or follow.  The majority of motorists obey the traffic laws.

There is no conspiracy to racially profile motorists who violate traffic laws.  A motorist who makes a "rolling stop" at a stop sign gets a ticket regardless of their race.  Your confusing "racially profiling" of "suspicious" drivers with ticketing of traffic violators.  A white guy can complain about getting a ticket from an Afro-American police officer; but he still made a "rolling stop" at the stop sign.  People need to take responsibility for their actions rather than blame getting caught on their race.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on April 18, 2014 at 7:04 pm
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Yeah, that's right, long as in issue doesn't affect you personally, it's much ado about nothing, and more than likely a "conspiracy" as well.  That is the attitude you consistently have on this website.  You demand unabated sympathy for the state cutting your pension, but if anyone else has to endure some hardship, they are just complaining and need to get over it.

What's really amazing here is that you've admitted that minority drivers get pulled over more than white drivers, yet you're still claming that there is no profiling.  So, your argument seems to be that minority drivers are just dumber than white drivers, and therefore commit more violations and get pulled over more often.

If a group of young Latinos with Texas plates drives north from their home state on the highways, they are going to be pulled over constantly, just due to the fact that other Latinos from Texas often traffic drugs on the same interstates.  Do you think it's fair that a Latino driving on the interstate with Texas plates is automatically assumed to potentially be a drug trafficker?  If that motorist gets pulled over every other county, only to be let go and told to have a nice day each time after his car is searched, is that just "no big deal" then?

787 wrote on April 09, 2014 at 5:04 pm

The Queen Mayor didn't want Kruse anywhere near this waste of time and effort, as he might try to pull the spotlight off of her.  Remember, everything MUST revolve around the Queen.  Always.

And yes, this is a complete waste of time and effort, just like the discipinary studies in the school systems.  But in a city like Urbana, this ends up being "necessary".  Studies like these (like studies on roundabouts) always trump common sense.