Champaign City Manager Holds a Not Very Newsy Press Conference on Police Violence

The below report is by Belden Fields, writer for the Public i, newspaper of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center.

After the Sunday November 20 issue of the News-Gazette published a front page article on excessive violence against a black youth by the Champaign police near campus on June 5, Champaign City Manager Steve Carter issued a two-page news-release and invited the press to schedule an interview with him that afternoon.  I accepted the invitation, as did reporters from WILL and WCIA.

After giving a very brief statement that did not go beyond his press release, he asked for questions.  When some of the reporters asked him for more detail, he said that he did not want to go into details.  He would not even state the race of the officer or the officer’s victim (it was black).

I attempted to put this case in the context of a long history of excessive force against blacks in Champaign, by reminding him of a list of specific cases that I had presented to the city council on January 13, 2010.  These included: the cases of 81 year-old Renee Holt who was grabbed by the throat and forced to the ground in her own apartment; Mildred Davis whose house was spread with bullets when people (including children) were inside; Brian Chesley, a young man who was slammed down on cement; the late Kiwane Carrington who was shot and killed; and Calvin Miller who was beaten just a few weeks ago.  Mr. Carter said that all of those before the Miller case had been investigated and that Calvin’s was still being considered.  But he did not want to talk about the pattern of behavior, only this case which happened be to caught on video—but no details please.  

I informed Mr. Carter that when police officers from the 3 local forces (Champaign, Urbana, and the University) spoke to a group of university students who were concerned about the police treatment of youth after the Chesley case, a graduate student had informed me that the Champaign officer had told the students not to worry because the police would know they were students and not treat them the way they treated nonstudent youth in the neighborhoods.  Mr. Carter said that he did not believe the graduate student’s story.  But I know her to be someone of the highest integrity.

I asked Mr. Carter if a drug or alcohol test was done on the officer in the June 5 incident.  He said that it was a long time ago.  I said, ok, and rephrased the question, HAD drug and alcohol test been done.  No answer.
Drug and alcohol testing on officers who had been involve in violence against citizens was one of the demands on the city made by CU Citizens for Peace and Justice back in March 2010.  Not one of those demands has been met by the city.

Given the seriousness of the charge against the officer and the corroborating video, I asked if the City of Champaign would now obey two Illinois court decisions and release to the News-Gazette and other news organizations the names of officers who have had allegations of abuse filed against them.
He said that is was still not settled law and that the city would continue to wait.

I asked if this case, coming after a long string of allegations of police abuse in Champaign did not strengthen the case of a civilian review board with subpoena power.  He said that there were currently discussions on the city council about that and there will be a study session.

I asked why there were so many complaints against the police in Champaign, complaints involving the serious human rights violations of excessive violence and racial discrimination, when we do not have them coming against the Urbana or University police forces.  Why can’t the Champaign force police less violently.  He said that he couldn’t speak about the Urbana or University forces, but that the whole use of force issue was going to be reconsidered.

Finally, I asked whether given his steadfast defense of the department when it was faced with a string of charges of abuse in the past, he might consider retiring given what has come to light now.  He said that he has not been considering that.  So, while Champaign will have a new police chief next year, the chief executive officer of the city intends staying put.  Only the council has the power oblige him to leave.

Troubling or Outrageous!

I'm so tired of hearing the "excuses" for the abuse of young African-american's in this community. the Black community must stand together and not allow "race managers" to attempt to deny Blacks' in this community justice. Misconduct, NO! Human Rights Violations', YES! People will get tired and fight back. The City had better respond in the most appropriate way. Stop protecting these rabid racist, and prosecute them like you prosecute the Black folks in this community. That's for Julia!

Prosecute Officers who abuse citizens and their authority

There is no reason why Julia Rietz, who is up for re-election, should not prosecute the officer who clearly chokes a handcuffed citizen in the back seat of the squad car. It is on tape, it's clear who the officer is and there is no reason to justify the unnecessary use of force.

Prosecute his ass just like you would prosecute anyone else caught on tape doing this.
Since to whom much is given, much is required, why not give him the maximum penalty. I know, how about you play hardball with him the way you do with young defendants and offer no plea bargain at all. Or here's a thought make the plea prison time at minimum so he has to go sit it in the jailhouse too. I'm sorry let me come back to reality, Julia Rietz prosecute an officer months before election time, lmao!

She does not have to wait for any other investigation she is the LEAD Prosecutor, duty bound to protect ALL citizens of champaign county from this type of treatment and she has the power to have this officer arrested and charged.

Why is she playing games? She saw the video, why is she closed mouth and politrickin', oh I forgot it's election time and she can't do anything that would jeopardize her high paying job, even if it means letting a "thug" officer go unpunished by the legal system. I wonder if her husband is friends with this officer too?!

Drug and Alocohol Testing for Police

Another fine, an unfortunately, necessary article.

"Drug and alcohol testing on officers who had been involved in violence against citizens was one of the demands on the city made by CU Citizens for Peace and Justice back in March 2010.  Not one of those demands has been met by the city."

The fact that police officers are not regularly tested for drugs and alcohol is an indicator of you bent our world is.

Why must applicants for the lowliest jobs submit urine before they are considered for employment, but men who drive expensive city vehicles all day while carrying deadly weapons are never tested?

Each time the issue arose in Galesburg (just for comparison) it was sidestepped, and no one is supposed to ask about it.

You don't seem to have an attitude that would allow you to live in Galesburg, Brian, you ask too many questions.

Champaign is lucky to have you.

Use of Force

Did the officer believe that he needed to go back there to get the kid's ID? That's the best guess I have for why they determined the officer's use of force was within policy and training standards. Any word on the rationale behind their findings? What exactly is their policy, anyway?

You want Officers to be

You want Officers to be tested for drugs? How about the low life link card abusing thugs that are forming the basis for these complaints? These thugs sit around eating, drinking, using drugs, have sex and don't work, yet they get the tax payers to support them. That is who I want to see being drug tested.

What do cops have to hide if they are clean? DRUG TEST!

whenever there's a serious article posted about police brutalty, we are treated to non-sequitur like this.

if bus drivers need to be tested, then certainly cops do also.
Why do they fight so hard to make sure they are NOT tested?


Dumb Ideas Don't Help

As a long time opponent of the drug war, I think it's a really dumb idea to support its tactics. Drug testing tells us practically nothing about an individual, other than they failed some arbitrary test. Its useless for clinical purposes and is often shaky science when reduced to the technology in the way that it is typically utilized.

Worse, drug testing is a tool of injustice. Expanding injustice does not bring us more justice. Better to start questioning the complex that suggests that drug testing tells us anything of real relevance.

It also buys into the central myth of the drug war -- that drugs make you do things. Drugs never made anyone do anything they weren't inclined to do sober. But propagating this myth allows people who should be taking responsibility for their actions to claim that "the drugs made me do it."

Is it any wonder that a war against large parts of our population based on such dishonest premises is a failure?

So best to work towards less drug testing, not more, no matter who it is.

It doesn't matter if the officer involved was on any kind of dope or drink. What he did was still a crime IMO.

Meanwhile, please don't feed the trolls.

Test the drug warriors.

Those who wage the "war on drugs" should be the first in line, to prove they're clean.

The song you always hear from the ones who violate our rights is

the only question we have today about most police departments is HOW MUCH do they have to hide, since so much routine information is kept secret to protect the reputations of those who are granted powers that our meant to be used to protect the public at large.

Secrecy and special privileges do not serve us well when crimes are committed each day UNDER THE COLOR OF LAW - with taxpayer money.

Sorry I didn't long in. I am not anonymous - I'm David Roknich.

streaming at


So you think the drug war is a good thing?

I don't. It should end. Buying into its premises is a classic case of the way one must be careful that prolonged conflict doesn't end up turning your behavior into that of your opponent.

Adding on tangential demands like this is also a distraction from the issue of abusive police violence. It doesn't matter whether some violent cop is using steroids, meth or what. Their violence is just as unacceptable. Usually, it's not the drugs that are the problem, it's the badge going to their heads. That's what worries me.

Steve Carter - in charge of hiding the dirty linen?

What is Steve Carter's job? Was he hired to hide the dirty laudry of city officials?

That is typical in the State of Illinois. Time to air it out. And he could order drug tests for the entire police force if he had the balls.

Actually I'm more curious why

Actually I'm more curious why UCIMC is not demanding the firing of Steve Carter. He's been in charge for decades, when all of this has been happening.

Why is HE not being held responsible?

Thanks for finally bring this up.

The Difference Between the Media and Political Action

UCIMC hasn't called for anyone's resignation. It provides media and other resources for those who report on this and other matters. While it's obvious that the very act of reporting things differently is seen as a political act placing it apart from the dominant media by some, it's not. UCIMC doesn't do politics. It provides a voice for those who do and don't have other media access.

Personally, they need to clean house all the way up the chain of command in Champaign. The buck stops with Steve Carter. He should go and it's rather amazing that he can supervise and make excuses for these folks for so long without feeling that he's become useless and ineffective at managing this sort of repeated, endemic police violence against citizens. Because he surely is.

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