Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 20, 2009

Champaign Police Prepare Revisions to Use of Force Policy

The Champaign Police Department says it's revising its Use of Force policy, to clarify its guidelines on when to use deadly force.

The revised policy took effect last month, but ran into controversy in the wake of the Kiwane Carrington shooting. Critics said it appeared to allow officers to use deadly force on suspects who were escaping or resisting arrest --- even if there's no sign that they have harmed or are likely to harm other people.

Police Chief R-T Finney calls that a misinterpretation. He says new language in the policy will make it clear the department follows state statute, which says that escaping or resisting arrest, is not --- by itself --- grounds for an officer to use deadly force.

"We put the statute (language) into the policy", says Finney. "That didn't seem clear to a lot of people. So we're taking it and kind of rearranging it, and making sure that it reads very clear that what the restrictions of deadly force when the suspect is trying to resist or escape have to have certain criteria."

The policy's language on Tasers has been another point of controversy, since Champaign Police don't' use Tasers. Finney says the language is meant to provide guidance for times when they call in other police agencies that DO use Tasers.

"We will be putting the actual restrictions in the policy and spelling those restrictions out, with a statement indicating that the Champaign Police Department does not deploy Tasers, but make it very clear that when we call other agencies in, here are the restrictions and guidelines (under which) we would call someone else in."

Also under the proposed revisions, language that was taken out of the policy ... on when a police officer may display a firearm ... will be restored.

And there's language that directs the department to send the annual report on its use of force in the past year to the Champaign City Council and Human Relations Commission for review.

Finney says he expects to present the changes to the city manager and city attorney for review in the next few weeks.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 20, 2009

County Board Rejects Board of Health’s Termination Request

Work it out. That was the message from the Champaign County Board Thursday night to the County Board of Health and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. County Board members voted to reject the Health Board's request that they give 12-months notice for the termination of their contract for public health services with the CU-PHD. The Board of Health wanted the termination notice to spur talks to renegotiate their five-year contract with the CUPHD. Board President Julian Rappaport says a hike in CUPHD administrative fees is too high - and that the Public Health District Board defers too much to administrator Julie Pryde - who he says doesn't listen to their concerns. "Basically they don't have to respond to us in any way they don't want to respond to us because it's a contractual arrangment not a geninue intergovernmental arrangment."

But CUPHD Board Chair Carol Elliott accuses the Board of Health of not listening to Pryde when she tells them things they don't want to hear. "The negotiations - there's a lot of tension there because we give information and if they don't agree with it, then that's when they say that we're being unresponsive." Several county board members said the Board of Health and the Public Health District Board need to work things out - perhaps with a mediator - but that a contract termination notice was not the way to encourage dialog.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 19, 2009

New Focus On Committee Of Champaign Police and African-Americans After Teen Shooting

A committee working for better relations between the Champaign police and the African-American community is scheduled to meet Thursday (November 19th) at 3 PM, at the Douglass Community Center. After a decade of regular meetings, the Champaign Community and Police Partnership is getting more attention, following last month's shooting death of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington during a police confrontation. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports on the group, known as "C-Cap" for short:

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 19, 2009

Proposal to Terminate CUPHD Contract Goes Before Champaign County Board

Champaign County Board of Health officials are unhappy with the public health services provided for the county through a contract with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. So, in order to re-negotiate, they've asked the County Board to approve a one-year termination notice at its meeting Thursday night.

Board of Health President Julian Rappaport says their arrangement with the CUPHD gives them little flexibility. The Public Health District provides similar health services to both Champaign-Urbana and the county, with the CUPHD administrator acting as the county's health director. Rappaport says there's no incentive for the CUPHD to be responsive to the Board of Health's particular concerns.

"We don't have any ability to set and implement policies that we think would be good policies for the county", says Rappaport. "So the nature of that relationship just completely limits us. Essentially what the County Board of Health becomes is a kind of a pass-through agency."

In addition, Rappaport says the county can't afford a CUPHD budget request for higher administrative costs for next year. A formal termination notice would allow the Board of Health to start negotiating with the Public Health District now, instead of waiting for its contract to expire in 2013. And if the negotiations don't go well, Rappaport says the Board of Health has hired a consultant to look at possible alternatives.

But CUPHD administrator Julie Pryde says there are few changes that can be made to basic state-mandated public health services, especially when little money exists to provide additional services.

"You have core services that your have to provide with Public Health funds", says Pryde. "And it specifies what needs to be done. Anything above and beyond that, there is some discretion. But if you're only covering your costs, you don't have much discretion."

In addition, Pryde says the termination notice would be confusing to the public, giving the false impression that health services might be disrupted. That's what happened in 2003, when a public health services contract ran out before the county and the CUPHD could come to terms on a new agreement. In this case, the termination notice would mean that the Public Health District's current health services to the county would continue for one year, while negotiations proceed.

Pryde says she's very accessible, and the County Board of Health doesn't need a formal termination notice to talk to her.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 18, 2009

Urbana Congressman Opposes Transfer of Guantanamo Detainees to Thomson Prison

A Central Illinois Congressman is joining a number of his colleagues in their efforts to block the move of terrorism suspects to Thomson Prison. Urbana Republican Tim Johnson says the Obama administration plan 'flies in the face of common sense... exposing Illinois to a terrorist threat.' But Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer says the bigger concern is what rights those Guantanamo Bay detainees would have once incarcerated in the U-S.

"If they are tried in civilian courts here, the rules of evidence are far different in civliian courts than in military courts," says Bloomer. "And there is the possiblity of these people getting released on technicalities. That can't happen on U.S. soil." Johnson plans to co-sponsor of legislation sponsored by Peoria Republican Aaron Schock that would prohibit the use of federal funds to support the transfer of those prisoners. And Johnson has signed a letter written by Congressman Mark Kirk requesting a briefing from the Department of Defense. It calls for a Homeland Security Impact Study... looking at the vulnerability of Illinois landmarks.

Bloomer says the DOD has 'stonewalled' the efforts of many to find out more about the Thomson plan and its implications. He also cites a letter written by Republican State Senator Bill Brady. He's asked Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan whether approval from state legislators is needed to sell the prison.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 18, 2009

GEO Suspends Strike After Reaching Tentative Agreement with U of I

Teaching and graduate assistants return to work Wednesday on the University of Illinois Urbana campus. The Graduate Employees Organization has ended its strike, after reaching a tentative agreement with the administration on a new three-year contract.

The official decision to suspend the strike was made by the GEO's strike committee Tuesday night, following a membership meeting in which members unanimously endorsed the tentative contract and the suspension of their two-day walkout.

Grad student workers had struck over tuition waivers --- and GEO spokesman Rich Potter says the university is promising in a side letter to the new contract, that any changes to the current tuition waiver policy will be subject to negotiation with the union. Potter says the language is a compromise, since the union had wanted the administration to renounce any discussion of a change in the waiver policy altogether.

A U of I news release says that "during the term of the three-year agreement, graduate assistant and teaching assistants will not have their tuition waivers reduced while they hold qualifying assistantships, are in good academic standing, and are making proper progres toward graduation in the program in which they began."

GEO member and mathematics teaching assistant Dan Lior says tuition waivers had been the most important issue for him. And he says he's pleased that the union's efforts created progress on the issue.

"For me personally, the difference is that the union demonstrated the ability of the everyday person to make changes that matter", says Lior. "It's a shame that it had to come to a strike, but we still do have the power to influence the way things are run."

The tentative agreement also includes a ten percent raise over three years for the minimum graduate worker salary --- union spokesman Potter says that's an improvement, but still short of the Living Wage that the union had sought for all graduate employees. He says the GEO will continue to push for a Living Wage for all grad employees when the next contract is negotiated. The new agreement also includes two additional weeks of unpaid parental leave and increases to the university's contribution to health care premiums (reaching 75% in the third year of the agreement).

"I think we're very happy to reach agreement", said Urbana campus administration spokesperson Robin Kaler. "We absolutely value the work that our graduate assistants do, and we're very excited to move forward."

GEO spokesman Rich Potter says they hope to schedule a ratification vote for this week.The agreement would then go the U of I Board of Trustees for their vote. If approved by both sides, the contract would be retroactive to the start of the semester.

Categories: Education, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 17, 2009

UI, GEO Reach Tentative Agreement

The strike by University of Illinois graduate student employees may be winding down.

Their negotiating team has reached a tentative agreement with the U of I over language in their contract regarding tuition waiver security.

The university says the tentative agreement will guarantee that grad assistants and teaching assistants will not have their tuition waivers reduced as long as they're in good standing, hold their assistantships and are making reasonable progress toward graduation.

The contract offer also includes items the two sides agreed on last Saturday, including higher stipends, more subsidies for health insurance and parental accommodation periods after the birth or adoption of a child. That disagreement led GEO members to walk out.

At a rally this afternoon on the U of I quad, spokesman Peter Campbell said members meeting tonight at the Wesley United Methodist Church will determine whether the strike will be suspended - he expects a ratification vote in the next few days.

Categories: Education, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 16, 2009

Blagojevich Witness List Reduced

A federal judge whittled down the list of defendants for Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial, dropping Springfield power broker William Cellini and leaving only the former governor and his brother.

And Michael Ettinger, an attorney for Blagojevich's brother, said Monday he will ask the judge within weeks to severe his client from the trial as well.

Judge James Zagel didn't drop charges against Cellini. Prosecutors are still free to bring him to trial after they finish with Blagojevich.

Meanwhile, Zagel says he's hoping to keep the June 3 trial date but left the door open for a brief delay requested by Blagojevich's lawyers.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 16, 2009

GEO Launches Walkout at 4 Central-Campus Locations

Picket lines sprung up around four University of Illinois buildings this morning.

Several hundred Graduate Employees Organization members and supporters picked up picket signs and walked in circles near the entrances of the English and Foreign Languages buildings as well as Davenport and Gregory halls. They wore ponchos or carried umbrellas against today's cold rain.

After negotiations Saturday resolved every issue but one, Graduate Employees Organization leaders opted to call a strike beginning today. GEO spokesman Peter Campbell says currently most teaching or research assistants on the Urbana campus have all or part of their grad school tuition waived as part of their compensation for their work. But Campbell claims the U of I won't put it in writing that those waivers will go on.

"The purpose of a university -- especially a public land-grant university -- it to provide open, accessible and high-quality education, and tuition waivers are an important part of that," Campbell said. "It wouldn't cost the administration anything to provide a contractual guarantee of protection for tuition waivers."

U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler contends that the GEO didn't bring up the guarantee demand until the night of the talks. "The University offered Saturday night that if the Board of Trustees would ever want to change the general rules that affect tuition waivers, we would bargain with the GEO on that."

Kaler says faculty have been asked to make arrangements to hold classes in different locations or make alternate assignments for students during the strike. Campbell says faculty were alerted about picket sites before the strike, and many switched locations. U of I police say the strike has been uneventful so far, aside from a few complaints about excessive noise on the Quad.

Categories: Education, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 16, 2009

Reaction Comes In on Proposal to Turn Thomson Correctional Facility Over to Feds

Governor Pat Quinn says turning a mostly vacant prison in northwestern Illinois into a federal lockup is a "once in a lifetime opportunity." But concerns are being raised about the possibility of housing terrorists within the state's borders.

Federal inspectors were scheduled to be at the Thomson Correctional Center near the Quad Cities today. They're considering using it to house, among others, Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Governor Pat Quinn is on board. "We have, I believe, 345 convicted terrorists incarcerated across America," the Governor said. "And I believe the people of Illinois and the men and women who live here are more than capable of handling any type of assignment when it comes to incarcerating terrorists."

For Quinn, who is up for election, the proposal carries risk and reward. It's an opportunity to bring up to an estimated 3,000 jobs to the depressed area.

The prison has sat mostly vacant since it was built about 8 years ago, and the state lacks the money to fully open it. But some Republicans have been quick to criticize the plan. Quinn and fellow Democrat -- US Senator Dick Durbin -- spent Sunday trying to alleviate security fears, saying the super maximum prison at Thomson is considered a state of the art facility.


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