Champaign City Council Considers Proposals For Citizen Review Of Police Complaints

January 24, 2017
The Champaign City Building

The Champaign City Building, where the Champaign City Council holds its meetings on Tuesday nights.

City of Champaign

The Champaign City Council gets its first look during its study session on Tuesday evening (Jan. 24) at proposals for handling citizen complaints about police.

Those include a police review board that would review those complaints and how the city investigates them.

The board would be formed as a subcommittee of the Champaign Human Relations Commission, which keeps records on citizen complaints against the police. As an offshoot of the HRC, the review board would share its subpoena powers to compel witnesses to testify.

The citizens panel could also make recommendations to the Chief of Police, although those recommendations would be purely advisory.

Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen says she knows that some police critics want a citizen police review board with more authority. But she says the city’s union contract with police doesn’t allow for it.

“Laypeople who are not trained police officers making employment decisions within the city, for me, would be a hard step to take”, said Feinen. “And I think that this is a good first step to make sure that citizens do have input into what’s happening.”

The citizen review panel is a proposal of a special committee of Police Complaint Working Group. That’s a panel of citizens and city staff that was formed last year by Police Chief Anthony Cobb to propose ways to better handle citizen complaints about police.

Other proposals from the Police Complaint Working Group include:

    1:  Having community members selected by the police chief to sit in on meetings of the Champaign Police Department’s Use Of Force Review Board;

    2: An increase in efforts to educate the public about the police complaint and use of force review processes;

    3: The selection of local agencies and community members to assist city staff with the public education efforts and the intake of complaints and commendations about police from the public.

Mayor Deb Feinen praises the Police Complaint Working Group for its work over the past six months.

“They worked hard to come up with a solution that is both fair to our officers on the street, and fair to the citizens who are interested in receiving more information and citizens who are interested in receiving more information and having input,” said Feinen.

The idea of a citizens police review board has considered by the Champaign City Council at several points in the past several years --- only to be rejected each time it was brought up.

Last year’s approval of a plan to have the police chief form a working group to study the issue came after the city council approved expensive settlements of excessive force lawsuits involving former police officer Matt Rush.

The police review board proposal being considered at Tuesday night’s study session would be similar to the existing review board in Urbana, in that it would have subpoena powers, be separate from the police department, and issue recommendations that would be non-binding and advisory.

The Champaign City Council meetings Tuesday evening, Jan. 23, at 7 PM, in the council chambers of the Champaign City Building, 102 North Neil Street.

Story source: WILL