Mayor Diane Marlin ignored the pressure and made the right choice.
Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin signed off on a list of top administrative re-appointments last week, an annual non-event that this year drew attention because of an organized, but ill-conceived effort, to pressure her to fire Police Chief Bryant Seraphin.
Well, for starters, he’s a police chief in the wake of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis. That’s grounds enough for some right there.
Then there’s the controversy over the arrest of a female suspect in an April shooting incident in Urbana.
Critics allege officers’ use of force in subduing the resisting woman was excessive and motivated solely by her racial background.
(The woman was not injured, but one of the officers sustained a broken thumb.)
In-house reviews of the arrest found that officers acted within the scope of their legal authority and the city’s use-of-force policy.
But the city council recently sanctioned a re-examination of the incident recorded on police body cameras to get an outside opinion.
It’s hard to imagine any finding supporting the officer will change the critics’ minds. They already have reached their conclusion and sought Seraphin’s dismissal, at least in part, on that basis.
In that context — the messy politics, the heightened emotions — Mayor Marlin deserves credit for not being stampeded into dumping Seraphin.
“He’s earned re-appointment, and I look forward to working with him,” she said. “He has the right temperament and right approach for this job at this time.”
More important, whether he was retained or dismissed has nothing to do with the facts that encounters between citizens and police will go off the rails from time to time.
Consider this statistic — the city of Urbana receives about 25,000 calls for service per year, 100 to 150 of which involve officers using force to subdue a suspect.
That’s an infinitesimal percentage, and anyone who thinks that number should be zero is woefully misinformed about the totality of circumstances that officers confront.
It’s not a defense of police abuse of authority — as sometimes happens — to insist that outsiders maintain perspective on these issues.
One thing is certain, in police citizen interactions, both sides have a responsibility — the officer to act in a courteous and professional manner and the citizen to follow legal directions given by officers.
Anytime people ignore an officer, resist arrest or run away from a legal stop, it’s going to get ugly.
Most people know that. Some, for a variety of reasons, do not.
That, of course, is not what occurred in the notorious killing of George Floyd. The officers’ alleged conduct was so far beyond the pale as to be off the charts.
No one, especially police officers, is defending what took place in Minneapolis.
But that was Minneapolis, not Urbana or Champaign.
Local departments here are more than happy to listen to their critics and consider any changes that would enhance the ability of officers to do their jobs and the accountability that must go with it.
Seraphin said he’s happy to hear people out. That’s just one reason why the mayor gave him a well-justified vote of confidence.