Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 13, 2010

Champaign City Council Endorses Updated Police Use of Force Policy

Changes made in the wake of the Kiwane Carrington shooting are now part of the Champaign Police Department's Use of Force policy and procedure. The Champaign City Council endorsed the revisions last (Tuesday) night.

The updated policy now spells out the combination of circumstances that must be in place before an officer may use deadly force on a citizen --- involving cases where a person has harmed, or is threatening to harm the officer or another person, or is threatening to use a deadly weapon to escape.

The police department's Taser policy is also clarified. New language makes it clear that Champaign Police do not use Tasers, but may call in other agencies with Tasers when they feel they are needed. Police Chief R-T Finney says even then, Taser use is limited, according to the situation.

"We had a situation where we needed to use a Taser", says Finney. "(The) agency came; the situation changed in terms of the person who was barricaded was utilizing some volatile chemicals in the house. And we opted not to use the Taser at that point. So, you know, we still have that control."

The changes to police policy come after 15 year old Kiwane Carrington was shot to death during a struggle with a Champaign officer last October. The shooting led to renewed charges that Champaign Police do not treat African-Americans fairly --- and pledges from the city council to improve police/community relations.

The changes were not enough for eight people who addressed the city council last night. They included Terry Townsend, who said the changes were only incremental, and failed to address deeper problems with relations between police and the African-American community.

"It is imperative that we do something to take the confrontational nature out of police community relations" Townsend told the city council. "And having these policies that you just can't make major changes because of constitutional or state law ... that you tweak ... that's not going to make the issue go away."

Some council members said they thought more needed to be done as well. District One Councilman Will Kyles says he saw frustration among both police and community members who did not believe that change was possible.

"That's the root of the problem", said Kyles. "That's what I want to work on --- not just having a discussion, but really helping, not only the community but the officers believe that things are going to change. Because right now, I don't think in my heart that people thing that."

Kyles called for more positive engagement between the Champaign Police Department and the community - including with some of the department's harshest critics.

City Manager Steve Carter said the revisions to the Use Of Force Policy may not address all problems, but were a step forward. Police Chief Finney says he doesn't think the policy needs any further tweaking. He says there are other police policies to address other concerns.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 11, 2010

Internal CPD Investigation into Carrington Death Gets Underway

As Champaign City Council members consider changes to the police department's use-of-force policy, an internal review is getting underway into last fall's police shooting death.

15 year old Kiwane Carrington was shot and killed as he and Officer Daniel Norbits were scuffling during a report of a break in at a Vine Street house. Police chief RT Finney had also responded and was slightly injured controlling another juvenile.

Champaign city manager Steve Carter is in charge of the internal investigation - he'll be assisted by two people outside city government - retired Urbana police chief Eddie Adair and retired McLean County judge John Freese.

Adair says their investigation will review the state police report into the shooting incident but won't change the outcome of that report, which led to a state's attorney's decision not to file charges.

"This is of an internal focus, looking at the training practices of the department and its policies and procedures as it relates to those only," Adair said.

Tomorrow night the Champaign City Council looks at proposed changes to the police department's use of force policy. City officials want to clarify for officers the right times to use lethal force.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2009

FBI Special Agent: Carrington Investigation Could Take Many Weeks

The special agent in charge of the Springfield office of the FBI says its investigation into the October fatal police shooting in Champaign could take several weeks - and then it will take more time for federal officials to deliberate over it.

The FBI is looking into the shooting death of Kiwane Carrington at the request of Champaign police. Supervisory special agent Marshall Stone says the scope of their investigation will be different than the state police-led probe that led to no criminal charges against the officers involved.

"In these types of situations, whether we're talking about police-action shootings or color-of-law cases such as excessive use of force based upon the authority we have as law enforcement officers, those tend to fall under the civil rights statutes," said Stone.

Stone says the final decision on any wrongdoing will be left to the Department of Justice in Washington, which will receive the investigation once the FBI office is finished. He says that investigation may involve their own interviews or it could rely on the state police report.

Carrington was shot while police responded to a reported break-in at a Vine Street house. His family has filed a civil suit against police and officer Daniel Norbits, who fired the fatal shot.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 11, 2009

FBI Will Investigate Kiwane Carrington Shooting

The FBI will be brought in to have a separate look at what occurred in Champaign on the day that Kiwane Carrington was fatally shot.

City Police Chief R.T. Finney says he wants a fresh set of eyes from outside Champaign County to have a look at State Police reports concerning the confrontation and scuffle with police on October 9th that resulted in the 15-year old's death. This federal investigation would not review the decision by Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz, who determined this week that no charges would be filed locally against officer Daniel Norbits.

Finney says this separate investigation could result in federal civil rights or criminal violations. Finney notes this request comes after groups like CU Citizens for Peace and Justice were critical of the handling of the Carrington case and its result. "The FBI in some situations could prompt an investigation themselves. They did not do that," says Finney. "The investigation could be prompted by somone in community. That wasn't done. And so I determined I would do that myself and initiate this investigation to hoepfully appease some of the critics who are indicating this is not a fair investigation." Finney says a civil rights violation could result in civil penalties, like a consent decree concerning police policies. Finney says the Department of Justice could produce ideas similar to what's being suggested by Champaign city leaders in the wake of the Carrington shooting, like the hiring of more minority police officers.

Finney says there's no telling how long the FBI could take to review the case.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 08, 2009

Rietz Rules “Accidental” in Police Shooting Death of Kiwane Carrington

There will be no criminal charges against Champaign police officer Daniel Norbits - his service weapon was the one that fired, hitting and killing 15 year old Kiwane Carrington during a scuffle on Vine Street two months ago. Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz spent nearly a month looking over more than a thousand pages of testimony and hours of taped interviews. On the day she declared the shooting an accident, she sat down with AM 580's Tom Rogers.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 08, 2009

State’s Attorney: No Charges in “Accidental” Carrington Shooting

A Champaign police officer who fired the gun that killed a 15 year old boy last October will not face criminal charges.

State's Attorney Julia Rietz has decided that Officer Duane Norbits fired his weapon accidentally when Kiwane Carrington was shot and killed outside a Vine Street home.

Witnesses had called police saying Carrington and another teen were trying to get into the house, which Carrington had visited in the past at the invitation of a family friend who lived there.

In her 13-page summary of the state police report, Rietz says there was no evidence that Officer Norbits intended to fire his Glock 45 - she says the report concluded that it went off while Norbits was struggling with Carrington with his weapon drawn. Rietz says because the shooting was accidental, there would be no reason to analyze whether the shooting was justifiable under use-of-force policies.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 02, 2009

Obama’s Afghanistan Plan Draws Wariness from IL Senators; Criticism from Johnson, Anti-War Groups

Illinois's two Democratic senators are reacting warily to President Obama's plans for future military involvement in Afghanistan.

Senior senator Dick Durbin issued a terse two-sentence statement saying while the president asked for more time to formulate his plan, he'll take time to respond later.

The state's other senator, Roland Burris, said while he supports the ultimate goal of transferring the responsibility of stability to Afghan forces, he worries how elevated troop levels will affect any future exit strategy.

15th district Republican congressman Tim Johnson was more direct in his response - he says the US should do the reverse and pull troops out of Afghanistan, questioning the wisdom of the war.

As word spread of President Obama's plans to send an additional 30-thousand troops, demonstrations lined the streets in several cities, calling for an end to the 8-year occupation there.

About 30 University of Illinois students and other Champaign-Urbana residents took to the corners of Green and Wright streets, staging brief 'die-ins' every time the stoplight turned red and the intersection was clear.

Groups like the Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort and International Socialist Organization say the President has appeared to change his tone about Afghanistan since running an anti-war campaign last year. Protester Karen Medina says Obama's strategy won't begin to help build a government for the Afghan people:

"A lot of people say we're there to promote democracy, and democracy has never been promoted by another country being militarily present," Medina said. "If you really are doing what you're saying you're doing, then either you're lying about wanting democracy there or you're doing it the wrong way."

The groups cite a CNN poll saying that 57% of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan, while Western-run polls show about 75% of Afghans favor negotiations among themselves.

About 70 similar protests were scheduled across the country yesterday.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 02, 2009

Champaign Officer Linked to Carrington Shooting on the Job While on Leave

The Champaign police officer involved in the October shooting death of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington has continued to do some work for the department --- despite being on paid administrative leave.

Officer Daniel Norbits was placed on leave after Carrington was killed by a shot from his gun during a confrontation that also involved another youth and Champaign Police Chief R-T Finney. But at Tuesday night's Champaign City Council meeting, City Manager Steve Carter says Norbits has continued to do some office work for Champaign Police.

"He's been in and out of the department, over time", says Carter, "and he has helped out in what would be considered some light-duty work ---some inventory work, civilian clothes, non-public contact --- a little bit. But his work on those projects has been completed, and he'll continue to be on administrative leave, until at least after the state's attorney makes her decision. And then it'll be evaluated as we go along, in terms of what his status it."

Carter's disclosure came after Martell Miller and Brian Dolinar asked city officials to comment on rumors they had heard of Norbits being back at work.

An investigation of the Carrington shooting --- led by Illinois State Police --- was completed nearly three weeks ago and handed over to Champaign County State's Attorney Julie Rietz. Rietz has said she will not release the report until after reviewing it completely.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 11, 2009

Champaign City Council Studies Police Use of Force Policy

Once again, the Champaign City Council chamber was filled to capacity Tuesday night, with people concerned about police practices in the wake of the shooting death of Kiwane Carrington. This time, the topic was the department's new Use of Force policy, which took effect just before the 15 year old Carrington was shot in a police confrontation.

In his first public comments since his involvement in the confrontation in which Carrington was shot, Police Chief R-T Finney defended the policy, which he says was revised as part of his efforts to earn professional accreditation for the police department. He argued against remarks from police critics, who said that African-Americans were subject to more use of force by Champaign Police than white residents.

"The use of force is based on reasonableness," said Finney. "It's based on the actions that are presented to the officer. We review each one of them for that. It has nothing to do with race."

In contrast to two previous council meetings, police officers and supporters turned out in large numbers at Tuesday night's study session. Many wore buttons that said "Support Our Police". Albert Lo defended the Use of Force policy against critics who said it needed to be more specific.

"The Use of Force policy probably should be ambiguous," said Lo, "giving officers the opportunity to use their best judgment. That's why we hired them."

In contrast, 1st District Councilman Will Kyles said he thought the revised Use of Force policy might be too vague. For instance, he called for more specific guidelines on when officers can draw their gun.

Champaign Police officials say the revised policy allows deadly force only in cases where great bodily harm has or may occur. And they say the guidelines for Tasers are for when the department may call in another law enforce agency that uses Tasers --- Champaign does not. Chief Finney has talked about reviving the idea, but would not comment on the idea last night.

C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice was among those arguing Tuesday night for more specific language in the Use of Force policy, and against any language on Tasers. They also want any changes in police policy that directly affects affecting the community to come before the Champaign City Council. The group plans a noon-hour youth rally on Wednesday, Veterans Day, at the downtown Urbana Veterans Memorial, in memory of Kiwane Carrington.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 05, 2009

Judge Accepts Settlement Agreement, Lifts Unit Four Consent Decree

The Champaign school Consent Decree is now history. A federal judge in Peoria Wednesday accepted a settlement agreement between the Unit Four school district and the plaintiffs in the racial equity case, and formally terminated the decree --- ending seven years of court supervision.

In his Opinion and Order, Judge Joe Billy McDade wrote that the Unit Four school district and the plaintiffs had worked to produce "seven years of transformative progress toward a race-neutral educational environment that is most likely to continue after the Consent Decree ends". Unit Four spokeswoman Beth Shepperd says they look forward to more progress toward racial equity.

Yes, the Consent Decree is over", says Shepperd. "But we have learned so much and gained so many tools to make student successful, that we feel that we are at the beginning of just incredibly great things for our schools."

The attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, Carol Ashley, says while they wish more progress had been made already, the Champaign school district has come a long way in its understanding of the needs of African-American students.

"The settlement and the lawsuit came because the (school) board had turned a deaf ear for many years about minority complaints", says Ashley. "So, when you look at the state of affairs, you can say, at least there's progress in the administration's understanding of issues."

Ashley says there have been concrete accomplishments as well. She says Unit Four now has more African-American administrators and teachers than it did when the Consent Decree began. She says its methods of assigning students to schools is more fair and equitable. And she cites plans to expand and rebuild two schools in predominantly black neighborhoods as part of the gains made under the Consent Decree.

With the Consent Decree now lifted, the Unit Four district stands to save somewhere around 2 million dollars as year in legal and consulting fees it had paid to support the court supervision.

And as part of its settlement agreement with the plaintiffs, the Unit Four school district is creating an Education Equity Excellence Committee --- to advise the district on racial equity issues now that the Consent Decree has been lifted. Unit Four's Beth Shepperd says they received 27 applications from community members to serve on the panel, and Superintendent Arthur Culver will make his recommendations from that list later this month.


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