URBANA — A workshop for Urbana police and the community on “10 Shared Principles” was an encouraging start, according to NAACP of Champaign County President Minnie Pearson and city officials.
Developed in 2018 by the NAACP and Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the “10 Shared Principles” spell out 10 basic beliefs the two groups mutually support in terms of what the relationship between police and their local communities should be.
Both Champaign and University of Illinois police had already adopted those principles and Urbana got on board with city council approval this past June.
Pearson said she’s already seen progress for Champaign police in terms of the use of force and greater sensitivity.
“I see more mutual respect,” she said.
And while Urbana was the last of the three agencies to sign on, Pearson said, “I am so very proud of Urbana Mayor (Diane) Marlin.”
Marlin said the workshop, held outdoors Thursday at Vineyard Church, was the first in-person gathering the city has held since February, and it was conducted observing public-health guidelines.
Marlin said police and community members were able to have honest and informal conversations, and she was happy about how it all went.
“I see this as the beginning of many conversations in the community, and we will be incorporating these principles into our policies, procedures and practices,” she said.
Two of the shared principles were emphasized, Pearson said.
One of them states “law enforcement and community leaders have a mutual responsibility to encourage all citizens to gain a better understanding and knowledge of the law to assist them in their interactions with law-enforcement officers.”
The other says de-escalation training should be required to ensure the safety of both police officers and the community.
Urbana police Chief Bryant Seraphin said he also was happy about how the workshop went.
About 10 members of his department were there, and the “10 Shared Principles” will be incorporated into department training, he said.
“I hope that some people got some increased understanding,” Seraphin said. “I look at this as sort of a gateway to more conversations.”
Pearson said it’s all about fairness and equity in policing the Black and Brown communities, and she agreed this wasn’t intended to be a one-time discussion.
“I would imagine this is going to be an ongoing training, touching on what is going well and what it is that we need to do going forward and what we can do to build trust between the police and the community,” she said.
For Pearson, it’s important for the community to understand that, while people must have the right to protest peacefully so their voices can be heard, the destruction of property and other criminal activities are unacceptable.
“Along with our peaceful protesting across the country, we have been infiltrated by other people with other agendas to make Black Lives Matter less credible,” she said.
Pearson also said many community members indicated they don’t support defunding police.
In a smaller community such as Champaign-Urbana, she said, “our police officers are not bad police officers. They are human. They make mistakes. They are not the kind where you would say, ‘I’ve got to get revenge.’”