What You Got To Go Through To File A Police Complaint In Champaign.

By Brian Dolinar Following on the heels of a similar proposition in Urbana, the Champaign police department is currently considering a citizen police review board. Just the mention of such an oversight has provoked reprisals from the Mayor, the News-Gazette, and their local law-and-order constituents. The News-Gazette has already begun editorializing against a police review board. An editorial ran on October 11, 2006 titled, “Police review board plan raises problems.” As if concerned for the minority community, the editorial says a review board will be a “tough sell to people who have long viewed police either with suspicion or fear.” Of course, many leaders in the African American community have supported the formation of a police review board. The suggestion is that nothing can (or should) be done to improve police relations in the black community. Filing a complaint is a relatively simple act, according to the News-Gazette. A citizen police review board would “do nothing except duplicate an existing discipline process.” This sentiment was echoed by another editorial in the News-Gazette from local citizen Michael Cook who said that Champaign police already has an “effective complaint process.” Champaign police chief R.T. Finney has expressed his interest in a police review board if it would bring more credibility to investigations. But he also said, “We don’t see substantial problems with our complaint process.” Co-founder of V.E.Y.A. (Visionaries Educating Youth and Adults) Martel Miller has had a different experience. It is the story of, as Miller says, “What you got to go through to file a police complaint in Champaign.” On September 22, 2006, following a hip hop show by Ludicris, there were several after-parties. One was at the Iota house, a black fraternity on 1st Street. A young black man who will remain unidentified says he tried to get into the party but it was too crowded so he decided to leave. As he was walking out, police outside told him he could not go. He tried to explain that his car was across the street. They told him if he crossed the street he would be arrested. As soon as he stepped into the street, police arrested him for jaywalking. Usually jaywalking is a ticketable offense, but they arrested the young man, handcuffed him, and put him in back of the squad car. Next the police pulled the young man from out of the car. While he was handcuffed, a police officer picked him up off the ground and slammed him against the trunk of the squad car. This was done as a show of force in front of a large crowd of African Americans who were by this time watching the whole incident. The young man was then taken to jail and bailed out the next day. The day after the incident, Martel Miller got a call from the young man who explained how he was abused by Champaign police. Miller told him to go file a complaint at the Champaign police department. On September 24, the young man went down to the police station to file a complaint. He was met by Sergeant Matt Crane who got into an argument with him. The Sergeant would not let him file a complaint and threw him out of the police station. Miller received a second call that day from the young man who said he had been refused the right to file a complaint. Miller decided to go down to the station with the young man and try to file a complaint for a second time. They gave the young man’s typed-written complaint to someone at the dispatch window and asked for a superior officer. Sergeant Crane came out with another Sergeant and 3 additional officers. As soon as Sergeant Crane saw the young man, he started yelling at him and tried to kick him out again. Miller interrupted and said, “This man is a citizen. He has a right to file a complaint.” The Sergeant began arguing with Miller. “The next thing I know,” Miller says, “the Sergeant is trying to put me out of the police station.” Miller then pulled out his cell phone and called Mayor Schweighart who had in the past told Miller to call if there was ever a problem with his police. The Mayor’s answering machine was on and Miller left a message. The second Sergeant then stepped in to talk to Miller and diffuse the situation. Miller decided to leave but said he would be back to file his own complaint against Sergeant Cane. On September 26, Miller went back down to the Champaign police department and delivered a typed-written complaint to Lieutenant Yohnka (See below). The Lieutenant told Miller that his complaint “wasn’t detailed enough.” He wanted Miller to dictate a complaint and Lieutenant Yohnka would write it out. Miller asked him if he could have a copy of the Lieutenant’s typed up complaint. Yohnka said, “No.” Miller was given a form to sign agreeing to the truthfulness of a complaint that he still had not seen. The form said if the complaint was unfounded, Miller could be held liable. Miller currently has a $15 million law suit against Champaign for an incident in 2004 when police seized his video equipment and charged him with felony eavesdropping for videotaping police work. He is already suspicious of Champaign police and knows how they will manipulate the law to serve their own ends. Miller asked Lieutenant Yohnka to fax a lawyer the complaint and he agreed. But Miller said Yohnka only faxed two blank sheets of paper. Miller called Yohnka on the phone and Yohnka flatly told him he could not have a copy of the complaint. On October 19, Miller received a summary of his complaint, but not the entire document. He issued a Freedom of Information Act, but it was denied. According to Miller, the Champaign police are now rewriting the policy on filing a complaint. Miller says the message is: “When you file a complaint, the Champaign police decide if they are going to take a compliant or not. They will write one down for you, but you can not see a copy of that complaint. So you don’t ever know what your complaint is. They say this complaint process is fair to the citizen.” -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- September 26, 2006 Champaign Police Department 82 East University Avenue Champaign, IL 61820 Dear R.T. Finney This is about an incident that happened on Sunday 24 September. I was at Champaign police department with [a young man] to file a complaint. Sgt. Matt Crane would not let [the young man] file a complaint and put him out of the building. [The young man] called me and [I went back with him to] submit [his complaint] to the front desk. Then I asked to speak to a superior officer. Matt Crane came out with two other officers and Mr. Crane started to put [the young man] out and I said to Mr. Crane that [the young man] has a right to file a complaint. And Mr. Crane then decided that he was going to throw me out of the police station. He acted unprofessionally and tried to provoke me into an argument. The other officers stood by and watched him act unprofessionally. And at that time I decided to call the mayor at home. After I called the mayor, that’s when the other sergeant decided to take some action and take control of the situation. But I believe that something should be done about Mr. Crane’s actions and that is why I am filing this complaint. Every citizen should have the right to file a complaint without feeling threatened. They have no right to put them out of a building. Sincerely, Martel Miller

Clearly a need for review

Thanks for the report. I'm willing to bet this is regular 'unwritten' procedure at the CPD. Clearly there is a need for a completely reworked complaint process, and for those times that it fails to work, a review process as well.

letters to editor

Can I suggest concerned members of the community write letters to the editor and send them to the News Gazette. They have published several editorials against a CPRB in Champaign. I don't believe they have published one in support. BD

As he was walking out,

As he was walking out, police outside told him he could not go. This seems bizarre. Can you elaborate?

Totally Consistent with my experiences.

I have had similar experience with CPD. They seem to avoid accepting written accounts of incidents, because it impairs their ability to mischaracterize complaints. As mentioned above, they require you to sign an affidavit affirming the veracity of your complaint, but they will not provide a copy of their written summary of your oral statement. Often, they restate the complaint in a manner which transforms irrefutable complaints into complaints which are easily brushed off. For instance, something like "Officer failed to record witness information in her police report or to even mention that there was a witness" becomes "Officer did not arrest subject". The first statement is supported by the officer's report. The restated complaint, however, introduces CPD "judgement". If CPD judges that an arrest was not appropriate, then the complaint that an officer did not record witness information is determined to be unfounded. As noted above, CPD refuses to provide ANY information regarding a complaint. The process is secretive and totally lacks any transparency. One situation about which I complained was witnessed by a third party. CPD's response to my complaint contained information about the officer's position on the complaint, but made no mention of the witness. I wrote Finney and asked if the witness was interviewed. Big surprise: I received no reply. One thing that's sort of amusing is the list of possible outcomes to the complaint process. Of the five (?) possible outcomes, only one is favorable to the complainant. This tells you something about their mindset. Clearly, they are interested in protecting themselves from all complaints - valid or not. During the course of handling one complaint, Brad Yonka told me that he does not trust me. I immediately demanded that Finney assign another officer to investigate my complaint. Finney refused to do so. Anyhow, the CPD is obviously not subject to anything like checks and balances. They are apparently free to do whatever the hell they want. And if you complain, there is about a snowball's chance in hell that they'll determine that they've done something wrong.

What do you expect?

Cops are cops because they cannot find any other gainful employment. If they were held accountable for their actions, they'd all be fired. So they stick together. They lie for one another. The situation with CPD will only change when CPD and/or the City of Champaign gets some true leadership. Finney and Mayor Mumbles are useless sacks of poop.

Mean People Suck...

TRUE, TRUE!!! All police officers are stupid and totally unemployable in any other field. They are all corrupt and lie constantly. Not a single police officer is honest, hardworking, or worthy of the air they take from me. ARE YOU PEOPLE RETARDED?!? They are people too. They have a hard job and do the best that they can. Do they make mistakes? Of course. Are there corrupt/dishonest officers? Of course. But that also is true of every other profession in this world. I am sure I can find a corrupt and dishonest banker, lawyer, school teacher, UPS driver, etc. It is absolutely clear that few that frequent this website view anyone that has to wear a BULLETPROOF VEST TO WORK as possibly an honest or good person. When was the last time you had to wear one to work??? SHAME ON YOU!!! I know some idiot out there will say that they have to wear a bulltetproof vest because everyone hates them because they all lie, are racists, and are generally of poor character. Save it. You are not going to get anywhere with it. Try waiving hello to cop every once in awhile. It might make you less angry at them if you actually see them as real people. Practice what you preach...

Most of our readers

Although being a police officer can probably be quite stressful, I think that your comments are overly categorical. First, our site is an open newswire, which means that anyone's free to post. If you or members of the police department have something you'd like to report, please feel free to post it. Seriously. Second, only a handful of people associated with UCIMC have actually responded to the thread. So as frustrating as the story and comments might be, I don't think they support the conclusion that everyone associated with UCIMC hates the police.

A reply...

"Cops are cops because they cannot find any other gainful employment. If they were held accountable for their actions, they'd all be fired. So they stick together. They lie for one another." Ah, yes. I was being overly categorical. I suppose the previous posting was not...It must be that the person that I wrote the post to has specific and personal knowledge of all police officers in the world to make a comment such as they did. That would mean that they know and have dealt with all 663,535 cops in the US (statistic from International Association of Chiefs of Police through a google search). Wow, they must really travel the country a lot!!! The story about Champaign PD did not bother me. I, too, have issue with them on occassion. If folks have issue with their police department, let it be known for all to see. Maybe the issues brought up are fact, maybe it is perception. Maybe folks don't understand something about the job those folks do - the way they walk up to the car, answer a call, or attitude/mannerisms they have. What bothered me is the "overly categorical" generalization about a single group of people with a single remark - "Cops are cops because they cannot find any other gainful employment..." Get real. I responded to a stupid remark by an uneducated/uninformed person. That other guy/girl hates cops as PEOPLE for what JOB they have. Not because of who they really are as individuals. The person that posted the previous commentary probably did not think of the 18,092 cops that have been killed in the line of duty in the US (statistic from Wikipedia) or their families. But I guess the families are full of unemployable liars too.. I am sure that not everyone associated with UCIMC hates cops. The last guy did though... The website from the National Law Enforcement Memorial states, "A total of 1,635 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 53 hours or 164 per year. There were 155 law enforcement officers killed in 2005. On average, more than 56,000 law enforcement officers are assaulted each year, resulting in over 16,000 injuries." Before throwing around silly comments, think of the sacrifice these folks make. If not killed or assaulted, they work on every holiday, loved one's birthdays, anniversaries, and every other significant day that we all have every year. All for what? A life expectancy of 15 years less then the average American? No better yet only a 50-50 chance of dying from heart disease within five years of retirement (Tom Tracy, "Fit for Duty: Demand it," Police, March 1993, p. 18)...

Dolinars Bias?

Some things never change Course: HST 202: United States History Course Catalog Description: History of the United States together with state and local materials from the Reconstruction (1865) to present. Emphasis on the political, social, cultural and economic trends and events which have molded and characterized America as a modern nation and world power. Meets the U.S. History and Institutions requirement for graduation. Professor: Brian Dolinar Required? Met a General Ed./diversity/other requirement with a few course options. Lecture Bias: Excessive Comments: The instructor chose selected news stories to discuss every class period, but made sure that they were all about the L.A.P.D. using excessive force or any other story he could find attacking a white politician. Although current events did not take up a significant amount of class time, they were never related to historical events. Most of them were from independent radical newspapers protesting war, capitalism, or anything else usually associated with the conservative population. Whenever a student tried to speak of another issue, the discussion was ended. A major point is when discussing the Zoot Suit Riots of Los Angeles. First-hand accounts were presented that depicted the Zoot Suiters as a violent gang who robbed and beat people up. The instructor dismissed this first-hand testimony as well as others as being lies from white men. He claims the Zoot Suits as well as other gangs are just trying to protect themselves from the white people. Discussion Bias: Excessive Comments: The discussions were biased because the instructor was the only one talking. He spent class time "preaching" to us about such topics as crack should be decriminalized, and on several occasions praised gang members and graffiti writers as "visionaries" or just expressing themselves. The majority of the class were first time freshmen and were obviously intimidated by the new college experience. After speaking to some outside class, they acknowledged that they were refraining from opposing the instructor for fear of negative repercussions. Readings Bias: Excessive Comments: Our required readings included "A People's History of the U.S." by Howard Zinn; "City of Quartz" by Mike Davis and selected short stories by Langston Hughes. Although popular, the Zinn book definitely has a left slant. The Davis text is absolutely absurd. The book should have been renamed "I hate Los Angeles." It was full of attacks on pioneers of L.A. as well as current politicians in Los Angeles. Further research by myself turned up several news articles pointing out many of the lies and blatant exaggerations used in the book. General Comments: This class was not about the history of the United States. The whole class was taught as a history of minorities in the United States and how all their pain was caused by white people. Instead of following the description of the course provided in the course catalog, the instructor's lectures provided a very narrow view of American history post civil war. Instead of incorporating major events such as the world wars, the course was entirely devoted to the oppression that minorities experienced. This type of lesson plan is better suited to an ethnic studies class, not a general education history class.

Your source?

Your source? Oh, wait, it's the not-even-slightly-biased "noindoctrination.org." @%<

Ahhh, That's It: Your Problem Is Obvious

First of all, I think you mean "Dolinar's Bias". anonymouse wrote: "This class was not about the history of the United States..." because you're been culturally indoctrinated to believe that the history of the US is what a bunch of dead white guys did, i.e. a "history of winners" that, by its nature -- in your view -- must exclude any "class...taught as a history of minorities in the United States and how all their pain was caused by white people [sic]." I happen to be a historian myself and the history of Reconstruction is the history of the continuing construction of race as a fundamentally integral part of post-Civil War history. Both the Emanciaption and Reconstruction were failures of the nation to honor the inclusive premises over which the Civil War was ostensibiliby faught. Since you do not seem to have picked up on this key point, you perhaps failed to pay much attention to either your readings or lecture. Professional historians no longer teach the kind of white supremacist history that implicitly ignores the contributions of the majority of Americans who aren't wealthy, white, or male. You'll have to look elsewhere for such a myopic and skewed version of history -- or pay more attention in any future academic history class.

I love it when cops defend cops and pretend they're not cops

I love it when cops defend cops and pretend they're not cops. The douchebag above is obviously a cop. Only a cop would defend the Champaign Police Department.

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