CHAMPAIGN – Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney said Friday he could live with a proposed citizen review committee that would give him input on complaints filed against city police.
A subcommittee of the 22-member Champaign Police Community Relations Committee has said its "preferred model" of citizen oversight of complaints against police would be creation of a citizen review committee. The recommendation was contained in an 18-page report issued last month.
Under the proposal, citizens could file a complaint against an officer within 30 days of an incident with either the police department or the community relations office. The police department's professional standards unit would investigate the complaint and make a recommendation to the chief about disposition.
The citizen panel would then become involved and review the complaint and evidence in the case, though the names of the officer and person who filed the complaint would not be revealed to the extent possible.
The committee could then either:
– Agree with the process and staff recommendations.
– Recommend more investigation.
– Agree with the process, but recommend a different disposition.
– Agree with the process and disposition, but recommend review of an overall policy.
The committee would then make two statements, one for public review and a second confidential statement to the chief.
The chief would make the final decision on whether a complaint is valid and if an officer should be disciplined, as is now the case. If the complaining party objects, the complaint can be appealed to the city manager, as is currently the case.
Finney noted that three police officers served on the subcommittee and had input into the recommendations.
"I think it's important to look at anything that would bring more credibility to the process," he said. "Whether this will do that is the question."
Finney said that while the proposal "appears reasonable to me," ultimately whether such a committee is created is up to the city council. The proposal would also have to be presented to the police officers' union, the Fraternal Order of Police, and could become a subject of collective bargaining.
"We don't see substantial problems with our complaint process," Finney said. "If there's a way to make it more creditable, I'm open to that process. I think we do a pretty good job of investigating.
"If this is something the community wants, it would be up to the city council," he said.
The subcommittee last month released its report on the issue, which the full police community relations committee is now expected to consider through November. The 10-member subcommittee, whose members included City Manager Steve Carter and Deputy Police Chief Troy Daniels, studied the issue for over a year.
Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart, a retired Champaign police officer, said Friday he had not read the report. He declined to comment, except to say "I'm generally against a citizens review board."