Champaign's police-review process closer to revision

Champaign's police-review process closer to revision

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign City Council members unanimously gave initial approval Tuesday to proposed tweaks to the formal review process for complaints against the police and the use of force.

The changes, which will come back to the council later for a final vote, center around creating a standing subcommittee of the Human Relations Commission that would work with the Community Relations Office in evaluating the police complaint review process.

Since the commission has subpoena power to get statements or evidence from individuals who don't voluntarily cooperate, the Police Complaint Working Committee said that power would extend to the subcommittee.

"Subpoena is crucial and a real change," Councilman Michael La Due said.

The subcommittee would also work to include demographic and general geographic information — as in neighborhood names or police districts — in public police reports, in addition to educating the public about what police complaint options exist and how they work.

"We were pleasantly surprised at how thorough these (complaint) processes are," said working committee member Bruce Brown, noting that some residents told him they didn't know that those processes exist. "We felt it would be in the community's best interest to be communicated on those processes."

The working committee also pitched allowing citizens to participate at the Use of Force Review Board's monthly meetings. Working committee member and Deputy Champaign Police Chief Jon Swenson said the citizens would be allowed to question, discuss and make recommendations, but not determine whether an officer's decision to use force was right or wrong.

Police Chief Anthony Cobb, also a working group member, said participating citizens will need to have some knowledge of the law, use-of-force regulations, police policies and interest in promoting positive police-community relations. They will also be trained, before participating, in those things.

La Due urged that people simply passionate enough about the work be considered as well.

Another proposed change would expand the number of locations where complaints can be submitted — adding places such as community organizations and social service agencies — in case people are uncomfortable with the current options of the police department, city building or online.

Three residents commented publicly to say they don't support the recommendations. They said the police complaint process has failed them before, and there are too many police-affiliated people on the working committee. Currently, four of the 13 people on the working committee are affiliated with the police department.

Several council members said that the recommendations aren't perfect but aren't worth ignoring.

"I think it's good to get this up and off the ground," said Councilman Matthew Gladney, noting how a previous proposal to create the working committee died in the council around 2009. "I think the timing of it is critical because in the past we couldn't have even gotten this far with it. Let's see how it works; maybe it will need to be tweaked down the road; and I'd be open to that."

Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen said she appreciates how the working committee proposed changes that will work within the city's laws and labor agreements.

The working committee "looked at stretching our comfort zone and adding transparency," Feinen said. "We've got to start somewhere."

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BDR529 wrote on January 25, 2017 at 10:01 am

So if someone files a false complaint will they be charged with a crime?

CharacterCounts wrote on January 25, 2017 at 11:01 am

Certainly they should be charged with a crime if they provide false information.

rsp wrote on January 25, 2017 at 12:01 pm

People can already be charged with a crime for filing a false report.

CharacterCounts wrote on January 25, 2017 at 11:01 am

All citizen complaints regarding individual police officers should require a signed statement.  This statement should include a statement to the effect that if the person provides false information, they can be charged with a crime.

Complaints should only be taken at  the police department by a police officer not some community activist.  Consideration should be given to audio recording the interview.

All witnesses to include police officers should be provided information that they can be charged with a crime if they provide false information.

A persons arrest record to  include traffic, misdemeaner and felony charges should be provided to the committee.

All persons who are not  police officers or retired police officers should be required to ride along with a police officer a minimum of 80 hours prior to serving  on the board.  Otherwise they are unable to understand the duties and responsibilities of a police officer.  At least 40 of these hours should be served during the evening and night shifts.  They should also under go a session of shoot - don't shoot with a simulator.

CommonSenseless wrote on January 25, 2017 at 11:01 am

Your requirements would make it too difficult for police haters like DoNotTread to file anonymous, unfounded complaints against the police simply because he hates police.

rsp wrote on January 25, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Sounds like you want police to be a protected class, like, not get their feelings hurt. If someone has information about possible police misconduct you want to intimidate them so they may not come forward because of "what police go through"?

A few years ago a domestic violence victim was escorted from a crime scene not to a hospital but to her house so a police officer could cover up the crime for his friend. The victim didn't come forward because she didn't think anyone woud believe her. She had a broken arm and he gave her a bag of ice.

And you want to make it harder for people to report problems? People need to trust the system. On both sides. That means knowing complaints will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. It also means that complaints without any basis will not stand.

Part of the reason for having community advocates work with people through the process is to have them be able to explain how it works, and possibly help people understand why the police do some of the things they do.

wykhb wrote on January 29, 2017 at 10:01 am

People don't feel safe going to the station to talk to Police, because they are scared of Police or hate them, because they don't talk to Police.  Wait, I think I see a trend here.   

Why not a board with absolutely no experience or education about what they are attempting to govern, what could go wrong?  

   If you or your neighborhood has a combative relationship with Police Officers, the bad news is that the Police probably aren't the problem.