Urbana is on the verge of establishing independent civilian oversight of its police. But the new Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) contract with the City has placed severe limits on this grassroots effort. Concerned citizens meet this Tuesday, January 9 at 7:00 pm to strategize.
The Champaign County Coalition for Citizen Police Review has been pushing for civilian oversight of police locally for at least six years, since efforts to establish oversight failed in Champaign following a spate of violent incidents involving questionable police conduct. In one case local police broke a man’s neck by knealing on his neck and pulling back on his head.
Recently statistics on traffic stops that police supplied to the Illinois Department of Transportation have demonstrated widespread racial disparities. Also, the City of Urbana recently paid an amount of money, as part of a sexual harassment case of an on-duty Urbana officer, sufficient to cover the expenses of the proposed Citizen Police Review Board for several years. The officer in question had been accused on numerous occasions in the past of sexual misconduct, but there was no independent civilian oversight at that time to raise the issue.
The current Mayor of Urbana Laurel Prussing and a majority of the Urbana City Council have expressed support for such a board, as have many, many citizens in public hearings over the last two years. The issue of civilian oversight became an election issue in the last municipal elections in Urbana.
Mayor Prussing, a founding member of the Coalition, established a Taskforce to study the issues involved in establishing police oversight shortly after she was elected. That Taskforce concluded this summer with recommendation for legislation. The Taskforce included the current Chief of Police as well as the then-President of the FOP, in additon to representatives of the NAACP, Urban League, CU Citizens for Peace and Justice and other concerned local groups.
Further consideration of civilian police review has been on hold pending the outcome of negotiations between the City of Urbana and the FOP -- in closed session, that is, not public. Now the FOP contract has been negotiated and ratified and made public. The agreement does provide for the possibility of a citizen police review board but also contains language related to such a board that does not have activists cheering.
Specifically, convicted felons are barred from serving on any such board. Police officers are not required to testify. And the board itself would not have the authority to conduct independent “third party investigations.”
Some activists say civilian oversight, even a limited one, is still worthwhile. Others are not so sure.
Learn more and join in the strategizing:
The Coalition meets this Tuesday, January 9 at 7:00 pm at the Illinois Disciples Foundation (IDF) on the corner of Wright and Springfield in Champaign.
The Coalition will also discuss efforts to establish civilian police review in Champaign.
For more, see http://www.prairienet.org/cprb/
And for nationwide info, see http://nacole.org/
Local contact: Ricky Baldwin 328-3037.