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CU Citizens for Peace and Justice held a press conference Monday, December 7, 2009 at the Independent Media Center to address the ongoing debate over the police shooting of Kiwane Carrington. The press conference pre-empted the release of the report by the State’s Attorney which was announced to come out on Tuesday, the following day. Those who spoke said the investigation is already contaminated and the decision whether or not to charge the police is a foregone conclusion.
A panel comprised of both members of the Kiwane Carrington family and CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, addressed the media cameras. Rhonda Williams, Kiwane’s aunt, said she was appalled that Officer Daniel Norbits, who shot Carrington, was back on the job. “It was a slap in the face,” she said, “and a pat on the back.”
Longtime community activist Terry Townsend pointed out how information about the shooting has been kept from the public. As he put it, “We have been unable to construct a theory of what happened because they have not released the information."
Below is the statement that was prepared by CUCPJ and delivered by Carol Ammons:
We at Champaign Urbana Citizens For Peace and Justice and the Family of Kiwane Carrington are here today to state clearly that the current investigation into the death of Kiwane Carrington, and any decisions based on this investigation, are invalid because the process to determine what happened in October 9th, 2009 that resulted in the shooting death of 5 year old Kiwane Carrington appears contaminated.
The Champaign County State's Attorney who is evaluating this investigation has already demonstrated prejudice and bias concerning the events of October 9.
Also, recent statements made by public officials, and new evidence from a recent Freedom of Information Act request, have shown that the public cannot trust the objectivity of this investigation, nor the State's Attorney's ability to avoid favoritism toward the officers involved.
In order for the community to have complete confidence in the fairness of the investigation - both to the officers involved and to the victims of this tragedy - and in order for all to believe this investigation was thorough and pursued all relevant information, the citizens of Champaign County must have the Department of Justice Department of Criminal Investigation assume responsibility for the gathering of facts regarding actions taken by all parties.
Also, we insist that a special prosecutor outside of Champaign County be assigned to evaluate such an investigation.
First off, the subjects of the Illinois State Police investigation, Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney and Champaign Police Officer Daniel Norbits, have been allowed to remain on duty during the time of this investigation, contaminating the investigation.
The return of Officer Norbits to employment and the refusal of Champaign City government to even consider administrative leave for Chief Finney, the commanding officer on the scene, are not only insults the family of Kiwane Carrington, but also allows both officers unprecedented access to information and witnesses during this significant investigation of the killing of a youth.
Chief Finney is supervisor over the witnesses being questioned; Officer Norbits is their co-worker.
Whether or not these officers actually influenced the investigation, the appearance of such impropriety has cast such doubt on the reliability of the investigation that the results, whenever they are released publicly and whatever they may state, cannot be trusted.
Secondly, the public can not trust the objectivity and independence of the Multi-Jurisdictional Investigative Team that is assisting the Illinois State Police.
Composed of Rantoul, Champaign County, University of Illinois, and City of Urbana police officers, this local team cannot be considered independent of the Champaign Police Department.
It is well known that officers in these jurisdictions work very closely with Champaign police officers.
All five departments have officers who have graduated from the same school, often work on the same criminal cases, serve on the same S.W.A.T. teams, attend the same training seminars, shoot at the same shooting range, respond to the same dispatch calls for back-up, and have opportunities to socialize off-hours.
It is quite possible that Chief Finney and Officer Norbits have been investigated by personal friends, known colleagues, and fellow students.
The close working relationship between the local police departments inspires no public confidence that the investigating officers would be willing to follow evidence that implicates wrongdoing on the part of their fellow professionals.
The appearance of local police investigating local police is unacceptable.
Thirdly, the State’s Attorney has demonstrated that she is not an objective and unbiased reviewer of the police investigation.
The public has been repeatedly told to wait for the investigation to be completed before assuming anything about the events of October 9.
This investigation took approximately 33 days to complete. The results have still not been released.
And yet, 4 days after the incident, 29 days before the investigation was finished, the Champaign County State's Attorney, whose job it is to now determine whether Chief Finney and Officer Norbits should be held criminally responsible for the death of Kiwane Carrington; accepted the testimony of these two officers about the incident, and represent their testimony as fact in a juvenile court on October 12. Before receiving the Illinois State Police investigation, the Champaign County State's Attorney had already decided what happened on Oct. 9.
Before the Illinois State Police submitted their investigation, the State's Attorney was publicly prosecuting the other youth - the key witness to that pending investigation - using the police testimony as the state's witnesses the subjects of that investigation.
While representing all the People of Champaign County, the State's Attorney has chosen to compromise the rights of the victims in this case.
The rules of professional conduct mandate that representing one client at the expense of another is strictly prohibited. The State's Attorney has established a clear conflict of interest. She should not be allowed to evaluate the investigation into the behavior of Chief Finney and Officer Norbits.
Therefore, we are calling for a Federal Department of Justice investigation into the incident and special prosecutor be assigned from outside of Champaign County to determine whether prosecution is called for.
To further highlight specific examples why the final report about this investigation and its subsequent evaluation cannot be trusted, we provide the following:
1) In an October 11th email written by Champaign City Manager Steve Carter to the Champaign City Council describing the events of October 9, Mr. Carter wrote: "The State's Attorney responded to the scene and will provide some consultation for the investigation."
Confirming the possibility that the Champaign County State's Attorney has been directly involved in the Illinois State police investigation, is an October 27 email sent to Champaign City Council member Marci Dodds from the State's Attorney where the State's Attorney admits she has been monitoring and participating in the investigation.
2) In an November 2nd email sent by Champaign Deputy Police Chief Troy Daniels, Mr. Daniels reveals that the Champaign Police Department was likely provided a copy of the final Illinois State Police report at the same time as the State's Attorney's office. It is possible that Chief Finney and Officer Norbits, while on duty, could have read the report and helped to craft a response raises suspicions. That they have had access to this document for weeks while the public is left in the dark is unacceptable.
Therefore, we assert that the contents and evaluation of the investigation into the death of Kiwane Carrington, as it has been assembled and is being processed, will offer no assurances that it will be accurate, nor that it will be complete, nor influenced by favoritism and sympathy for the police officers involved.
Under these circumstances, we are not assured that justice will be served and therefore the necessary healing for the entire community cannot be achieved.
The death of Kiwane Carrington puts us at the threshold of improving our police departments, implementing better apprehension techniques, and establishing better use of force restrictions that can be agreed upon by the general public.
Unfortunately, public officials have chosen the way of secrecy, cover-up, and inside dealing to protect their reputations, their careers, and avoid liability in civil court.
The unintended consequence of such behavior is the appearance that the life of a black youth has no value.
This democracy demands total transparency and independent checks and balances.
We must have a further independent investigation. We must have an objective evaluation.