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 28, 2009

Jackson Wants Federal Probe of Rockford Police Shooting

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging Rockford residents to push for a federal investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed man inside a church-run day care.

At a news conference at the day care center on Sunday, Jackson criticized a grand jury for ruling last week that the shooting was justified.

He urged residents to push for an outcome that's "just and fair.''

The Aug. 24 killing of 23-year-old Mark Anthony Barmore at the church-run facility in Rockford has heightened racial tensions in the community. The two officers are white and Barmore was black.

Witnesses say Barmore surrendered. But police have said Barmore tried to attack the officers.

Barmore's father, Anthony Stevens, says the grand jury decision made for the worst Christmas he's ever had.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 17, 2009

Unit 4’s New Committee to Continue Racial Equity Progress Holds 1st Meeting

A new committee assigned with creating a climate of equal opportunities for all Champaign school students held its inaugural meeting Wednesday.

The Education Equity Excellence committee was put together as part of the Unit 4 settlement of its Consent Decree for racial equity. The panel is made up of district administrators and community members --- including a bilingual teacher, the President of the local NAACP chapter and a former Unit 4 school board member, Nathaniel Banks.

Banks, who stepped down last spring, is the most recent African-American to serve on the school board. Speaking prior the meeting, Banks said the Triple-E Committee's first session would be largely about laying the groundwork for future work. He says the Champaign school district has already made strides towards greater equity in some areas, but that it's a work in progress.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't lend itself to the cycle of elections", said Banks. "So there are long-term issues that the Consent Decree was trying to address, and those issues are still there. Certainly, there's been progress, not only in closing the achievement gap, but also in looking at (programs for) Gifted and Talented (students) increasing the number of African-American students there."

Banks says the Champaign school district also needs to take a hard look at the number of minority students in special education, and discipline issues.

Triple-A Committee member and PTA Council President Nancy Hoetker says she'll be responsible for helping facilitate communications between the the committee and Unit Four's 16 campuses.

The Triple-E Committee is expected to meet at least twice per semester.

Categories: Education, Race/Ethnicity

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 09, 2009

Champaign Council Members Hear Criticism on Handling of Carrington Case

The state's attorney's decision not to file charges in the Kiwane Carrington shooting did not satisfy people who spoke on the subject at Tuesday night's Champaign City Council meeting. And the city's handling of the case also came in for criticism.

Pledges by Champaign officials to look at ways to improve relations between police and African-American youth were not enough for Champaign County Board member Carol Ammons, whose district includes much of northern Champaign. She called Tuesday's news conference by city officials a well-crafted piece of public relations, in which no one took questions from the public.

"I suggest that if you want to move forward", said Ammons, "beyond providing social service programs, recreation and basketball, that you would decide that you start with allowing yourselves to be interrogated by the community that has hundreds of questions surrounding this death."

Ammons also cited emails obtained by C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice through a Freedom of Information Act request, which she says gives the impression that the investigation was tainted by interference from city officials, including council members Will Kyles, Marci Dodds and Deb Feinen. In the last case, Ammons said Feinen corresponded with State's Attorney Julia Rietz on the case while the investigation was ongoing.

When asked about Ammons' charge, Feinen denied that her correspondence tainted the investigation. She said she only forwarded mass emails to Rietz that publicized rallies or contained criticisms of the Carrington shooting, and did not add any substantial comments.

"I don't have any information", said Feinen. "I wasn't at the scene. I didn't interview any witnesses. I haven't talked to any witnesses. So I don't know how that's interference with the investigation."

Urbana resident Elizabeth Simpson says the death of Kiwane Carrington has had a negative impact on how young people in both Champaign and Urbana regard the police and other authority figures. Simpson coordinates the peer mediation program at Urbana Middle School. And she told council members her students are asking her about the city's handling of the Carrington shooting.

"They say, 'Miss Beth, we don't understand, why aren't they saying they're sorry? Why won't they even say they're sorry? Whether it was an accident, whatever degree of responsibility it was, why won't anybody take responsibility?'" said Simpson. "And they mean you, too. They mean the police, but they mean you, too."

Simpson says she had not known until the hearing about it at the council meeting that there was any sort of apology from a city official. Earlier in the day, Police Chief R-T Finney said he wanted to "express my sincere condolences and sorrow to the Carrington family". And he said that while the Officer Daniel Norbits did not intend for his gun to go off, killing Carrington, "make no mistake the weapon was ours, it was discharged and I am ultimately responsible for the actions of our police officers."

Members of Kiwane Carrington's family also attended the city council meeting, but did not speak. Afterwards, Rhonda Williams, Kiwane's aunt, said she had already commented enough.

Champaign council members made no public comment following the remarks from the public, and left the chamber to go into closed session over a matter of potential litigation.


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

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.


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 17, 2009

Champaign School Board Names New Committee on Equity

A new committee to advise the Champaign school district on equity issues is now in place. The Unit Four School Board approved members for the Education Equity Excellence --- or Triple E Committee --- during a special meeting Monday night. And they named ten community members to serve on the panel, including notable local African-Americans such as local N-double-A-C-P President Jerome Chambers and former school board member Nathaniel White.

But the new committee is supposed to study equity issues for all Unit Four residents ... so its members also include white, Asian-American and Latino residents. In the last category, bilingual education teacher Lily Jimenez says she hopes the committee can be a voice for families --- especially Latino Families.

"I would love there to be, kind of like an open forum for Latino families", said Jimenez, "to just come and share their experiences with the district. You know, things that they like, things they would like to see different. And then just start a dialog, to see what things the district is doing well, and what things they could do better."

School Board member Susan Grey says that after years under the Consent Decree, she welcomes the feedback from community members.

"I like having a measure of accountability from our own community", says Grey. "Not court oversight, but community oversight".

Other members of the Triple-E Committee will represent the Unit Four administration, teachers union and school board.

School Board member Susan Grey says the board must meet at least twice a semester, but can meet more frequently. She says it can also recruit more members for subcommittees focusing on specific topics. Grey expects the Triple-E Committee to hold its first one oro two meetings before the year is out.

The Ten Community Members Named to the Unit Four EEE Committee:

Virginia "Ginny" B. Holder --- attorney

Lily Jimenez --- bilingual teacher

Annette McDonald Jones --- Dir. of Trust Services, U of I Foundation

Dr. Christina N. Medrano ---surgeon

Karl Radnitzer - education professor, Milliken University

Melodye Benson Rosales -- commercial and educational publishing

Jamar Brown --- member, Champaign Human Relations Committee

Rev. Jerome C. Chambers - President, Champaign County Chapter of the NAACP

Nancy Hoetker --- President, Champaign PTA Council

Nathaniel C. Banks -- former Unit Four School Board member

Categories: Education, Race/Ethnicity

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