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.