Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 23, 2011

Illinois State Officials Review Abuse of Disabled Placards

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is looking to increase penalties for drivers who illegally park in spots reserved for the disabled.

Starting in January, White said his office will look into increasing fines for those who illegally park in reserved spots without a placard and for those who use fraudulent placards. This comes after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed fine increases for those who use fake, stolen or altered disability placards to park.

"I think it's a violation of all laws of human decency for you to be able bodied but yet you want to take advantage of a program that has been set aside for those in need," said White.

White said he's considering upping the fines for illegally using disability permits to more than $2,000. Current fines for motorists start at $350 for parking without a placard, and a $500 fine and 30-day driver's license suspension for those illegally using one.

White also said his office will again increase enforcement of disability parking rules at malls during the holiday season. Secretary of State police will be outposted at malls in Schaumburg, Rockford, Springfield and Marion on Black Friday and through the weekend. A spokesperson for White's office says this is the first year Secretary of State police will target several malls on Black Friday since the upped enforcement began in 2005.

The spokesperson said the office's police force will move mall-by-mall throughout the state through the remainder of the year.



WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 23, 2011

Champaign City Officials Want Federal Investigation into Arrest

The Illinois State Police has concluded that a Champaign officer's actions during a June 5, 2011 arrest were appropriate, and that no further review is needed. But Champaign city officials don't agree with that assessment, and are calling for a federal inquiry into the arrest.

Video of the arrest anonymously leaked this week online shows an African American youth being pepper sprayed by a Champaign police officer after he was stopped for jaywalking. A police officer is also seen putting his hands on the man's neck while he is handcuffed in the back of a squad car.

City Manager Steve Carter asked the state police to investigate the way the arrest was carried out after Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney determined the officer's actions regarding "use of force" were within police and training standards. The state police reached the same conclusion as the Champaign Police Department, and now Carter is asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation to review the case.

"It's an opportunity for us to look at our policies and procedures," Carter said. "I think in the end that'll be better for the officers and the department and better for the community all around."

Carter said the city council will also be asked to approve the hiring of an independent firm to look at the matter. Patricia Avery, the interim president of the Champaign County NAACP, said she is pleased with the city's decision to push for another investigation. Avery said she has heard about other cases involving alleged abuse by the Champaign Police Department, and hopes the city's stance is a turning point for police-community relations.

"It's a tragic situation," Avery said. "It's time for a change, and I think people are bound and determined not to rest until we seek justice and things change in the community."

Tamara Cummings of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council said the leaked video of the arrest is being criticized by people who haven't watched the entire video, and don't understand proper police work.

For instance, Cummings said the use of pepper spray to subdue a young African-American man in the arrest was proper, because the subject was resisting with enough force to potentially injure one of the officers. She said pepper spray is a legitimate tool to force an unwilling subject to comply with police orders.

"It's essentially a force mechanism," Cummings said. "And it's authorized by the department to use in order to get a subject to comply. So, the department investigation concluded that the use of pepper spray in this case was appropriate, and I have to reason to think that that's not correct."

Meanwhile, a local activist said the city of Champaign's plans to seek a federal review of the June 5th arrest doesn't go far enough.

Champaign County Board Member Carol Ammons gathered with more than 70 people Tuesday night at Salem Baptist Church in Champaign.They outlined a list of demands that they want city officials to meet.

"We're hoping that the city will see the importance of selling a really debt with the black community," Ammons said. "They deserve respect, and they have not gotten it from the city of Champaign policing, and it is time for them to address these needs." Ammons is also urging the city council to create a police civilian review board with subpoena powers. The council will take up the issue at the start of next year.

Among those demands, Ammons said criminal charges should be filed against the arresting officers. She also said other police abuse allegations dismissed by Chief R.T. Finney should be investigated.

Champaign Mayor Don Gerard said he could see the city possibly reviewing past allegations.

"I don't think it's out of the question, and I don't think it's unreasonable to have the council ask that question and ask to see those other reports," Gerard said.

The city is also in the process of seeking a new police chief. Avery said the NAACP - along with the League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Champaign Community and Police Partnership - is helping organize a public forum on Dec. 8 at 7pm in the city building with the four finalists being considered for the job.

Watch the police footage from the June 5 arrest


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 23, 2011

Indiana Likely to Revisit Divisive ‘Right-to-Work’ Debate

Indiana Republicans and Democrats came together Tuesday in Indianapolis for what's called Organization Day, a kind of symbolic start to the new legislative session that often sets a tone for what's to come.

And what's to come could be more fighting between the minority Democrats and majority Republicans.

GOP leaders in the both the Indiana House and Senate on Monday announced plans to try to pursue so-called "right to work" legislation. If adopted, the law would stop requirements that force workers to join unions or pay dues as a condition of employment. Similar legislation has caused political uproars in other states, most recently in Ohio.

"I don't expect a free-for-all but I do expect an intense debate," Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said in Indianapolis on Monday. "There are very strongly-held feelings on this (right to work) issue."

Democrats fought right to work provisions during the last legislative session. Because they've been in the minority in both legislative houses, their most effective tool was to simply be absent from statehouse work. Democrats walked out of the House last spring and didn't return for five weeks. They spent most of their time at a hotel in Urbana, Ill.

"We may be in the minority but we have a duty to protect ourselves against the tyranny of the majority," said House minority leader Patrick Bauer, a Democrat from South Bend.

Bauer counters Republican claims that such legislation would make Indiana more competitive in luring businesses and jobs to the Hoosier state.

"This could be the eventual decline and fall of Indiana being an economic, viable state," Bauer said.

Bauer would not say whether Democrats would walk out of the upcoming legislative session if right to work legislation is introduced.

Senate Pro Tem David Long says the legislation is not about getting rid of unions.

"This effort will not and does not seek to eliminate unions in our state, nor will unions be eliminated in our state," said Long, a Republican from Fort Wayne.

The new session begins in January.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 22, 2011

Rezko Sentenced to More than 10 Years in Prison

Tony Rezko, a key figure behind corruption in the Blagojevich administration,was sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison by federal Judge Amy St. Eve. His attorneys argued that Rezko provided important help to prosecutors investigating the former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Rezko didn't start cooperating with investigators until after he was convicted at trial, and even then, prosecutors said his cooperation was not very helpful because he continued to tell lies, making it impossible to put him on the stand as a credible witness. Prosecutors never called Rezko to testify.

Rezko's attorneys said he shouldn't get such a harsh sentence because prosecutors made a tactical choice not to call him to the stand. They pushed the judge to sentence Rezko to the 3 1/2 years he's already served since his conviction. They said he has been awaiting sentencing at the government's request so he could be available to testify.

As a result they said he's had to serve time in solitary confinement, as opposed to a minimum security prison where most white collar criminals do their time. They said in the last few years "Rezko has not had a breath of fresh air, a ray of sunlight, or a hug from a loved one."

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says the 10 1/2-year sentence imposed on the convicted political fixer was "stiff and appropriate."

Fitzgerald said Monday he hopes it sends a message that there are serious consequences for engaging in public corruption.

Rezko was convicted in 2008 of fraud, money laundering and plotting to squeeze $7 million in kickbacks from firms that wanted to do business with the state during now-disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich's tenure.

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve told Rezko her sentence reflected his actions, plus the fact that he repeatedly lied about his actions, including in a letter he sent to her.

Fitzgerald said it appears corruption sentences are getting longer.

Rezko attorney Joe Duffy says he's not sure if he will appeal the sentence.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 22, 2011

Court Postpones Congressional Candidate Filings in Map Court Fight

A federal court in Chicago has postponed candidate filing for congressional races while it decides a Republican lawsuit challenging Illinois' new redistricting map.

A three-judge panel says candidate filing will start Dec. 23 and end Dec. 27. The original filing period would have been Monday through Dec. 5. The filing date was changed as judges deliberate a lawsuit that seeks to throw out the state's new congressional districts map, which was drawn by Democrats. Republicans contend it will decimate their gains in Congress and dilute Latino voting power.

Judges changed the filing dates while they decide if they're going to change district lines on the map or deny the Republicans' lawsuit.

If the map is still in dispute after Dec. 21, a new filing schedule will be set.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 22, 2011

African-American Leaders, Police Union, Comment on Arrest

African-American leaders in Champaign looking to strengthen police-community relations say a police video of a June arrest in the U of I's Campustown neighborhood has re-opened wounds.

But a police union is defending the officer's actions.

After seeing the incident involving a college-age African-American that was leaked online Monday, members of the Champaign-Community Police Partnership, or C-CAPP, say they are working to take the lead on solutions in several areas.

C-CAPP member and Champaign County NAACP Interim President Patricia Avery said she is confident that the city will give the proper attention to the idea of a citizen police review board. City council members are expected to review that idea early next year. But Avery said seeing the actions of Champaign police last June "slaps us back to square one."

"We want justice," she said. "We don't want to have to worry about our young people when they go out on the street. We want them to do what they're supposed to do, and respect the authority, and when they're told to stop, stop. But we also don't expect that our officers are going to be behaving in a matter in which we saw in that videotape."

But Tamara Cummings of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council said the leaked video of the arrest is being criticized by people who haven't watched the entire video, and don't understand proper police work.

For instance, Cummings said the use of pepper spray to subdue a young African-American man in the arrest was proper, because the subject was resisting with enough force to potentially injure one of the officers. She said pepper spray is a legitimate tool to force an unwilling subject to comply with police orders.

"It's essentially a force mechanism," Cummings said. "And it's authorized by the department to use in order to get a subject to comply. So, the department investigation concluded that the use of pepper spray in this case was appropriate, and I have to reason to think that that's not correct."

Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said he found the police video 'troubling.' He and Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz asked state police to review the incident. Meanwhile, Rietz has dismissed charges against the subject.

Despite their concerns, Williams and Avery say they are confident the Champaign City Council will take the right approach to answering calls for a citizen-police review board. The council will take up the issue in January.

But members of C-CAPP hope to address other areas, including the police department's use of force policy. Carter has said the city will bring in outside experts to look at it.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 22, 2011

Ill. State Police Find Champaign Officer Followed Procedure

Below is a statement from the Illinois State Police regarding the June 5, 2011 arrest by Champaign police on the corner of 4th and Green Streets in Campustown:

CHAMPAIGN - The Illinois State Police has completed a review regarding an incident that occurred on June 5, 2011, at approximately 2:30 a.m., at 4th and Green Street in Champaign, Illinois.

At the request of Champaign City Officials, and the Champaign County State's Attorney's Office, Illinois State Police completed an independent review on November 22, 2011, of the Champaign Police Department's Use of Force Investigation.

Based on the Use of Force Investigation completed by the Champaign Police Department, Illinois State Police Officials have concluded that the officer followed Department policy under the Champaign Police Department's Use of Force model. Based upon these findings, the Illinois State Police will conduct no further review of the matter.

Champaign Police Department policy states that the use of OC spray "is intended to be used primarily against unarmed subjects who officers reasonably believe have indicated physically and/or verbally that they intend to resist arrest or assault an officer or other person."

The officer was on routine patrol in the area of 5th and Green Street having responded to a reported fight in progress. The officer observed a group in the intersection of 4th and Green against the traffic signal, disrupting traffic. The officer approached the group, and directed the group to relocate. A pedestrian refused the officer's command and became combative, resisting the officer's attempt to make an arrest. The officer followed department policy and used the appropriate technique to gain compliance without injury to himself or the subject taken into custody.

"For every law enforcement agency, safety is always the top priority and law enforcement officials are concerned anytime the safety of the public or police is compromised. However, based on the Champaign Police Department's investigative reports, the officer appropriately contained a resistive subject and followed department policy," said ISP Region 3 Commander Todd Kilby.

"The Champaign Police Department conducted a thorough investigation and based on the findings from the Champaign Police Department's investigation and the ISP independent review, it has been determined that the officer's actions were within department guidelines," Kilby added.

Watch the police footage from the June 5 arrest

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 22, 2011

UI Trustees Tuition Vote Will Come in January

University of Illinois Trustees are expected to approve tuition rates in January.

Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr told a Trustees committee Monday that passing it earlier gives families time to plan financially. Just as last year, he says amount of any tuition increase is pegged to keep up with inflation.

In prior years, the state's fiscal crisis has forced the U of I to wait as late as June before setting rates. U of I President Michael Hogan says there are other advantages to passing them earlier.

"We can't really get our financial aid packages together, and it's costing us real opportunities to recruit students," he said. "They're waiting so long, they're taking other offers and so on, so I'm very happy about being able to move that up."

Knorr says the state still owes the U of I a total of $357-million, including $139-million from fiscal 2011. But he says the trend of the state being 6 to 7 months in payments behind is stabilizing.

Meanwhile, Hogan says he hopes to see the university set aside more tuition for financial aid. He says most Big Ten universities reserve close to 17-percent for that use, and wants to do a study of where the U of I falls in with other peer institutions. But Hogan wouldn't commit to a specific figure.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 21, 2011

At Least 20 Illinois Legislators Not Running Again

The Illinois General Assembly will have at least 20 new members in 2013.

The State Journal-Register reports Monday (http://bit.ly/u2sokR) that the figure totals more than two dozen when you include lawmakers who retired before the 2010 elections or resigned to run for other offices. Ten of the 59 Illinois Senate members are retiring, five Democrats and five Republicans. Ten of the 118 Illinois House members are retiring, seven Democrats and three Republicans.

Political experts say the turnover isn't surprising because it's typical to see retirements when districts are redrawn following the U.S. Census. House Minority Leader Tom Cross has the fewest number of retiring caucus members. He says that's because the caucus has many younger members.

Categories: Government, Politics

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