From AP - News Headlines -

Champaign Forum on Police-Community Relations Attracts 300

Some 300 people gathered at a public forum in Champaign Monday night to discuss ways to improve relations between police and the African-American community. The meeting was organized in the wake of October's police shooting of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington. The need for better communications and mutual respect were common themes in the discussions.

City Manager Steve Carter says a report summarizing the comments and findings from last night's forum should be ready in a week to ten days. It will be sent to forum participants and posted on the Champaign city website.

With just an hour to discuss longstanding obstacles, there wasn't much time at the forum to get into details. Still, 16-year-old Lavon Miller says he learned a lot from the Champaign police officer who was part of his group.

In Miller's view, the police handle their patrols of white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods differently. The 16-year-old notice how officers "patrol different, they wave their hands in the Devonshire, Cherry Hills area, Centennial area. They wave their hands to the people standing. And they wouldn't really say nothing to the people in the north end, they'd be just really rude to the people that come into."

Miller says the officer at his table said the residents of predominantly black neighborhoods who call for police help want to see a change, so they come in more forcefully.

At another table, police Sergeant Robert Rea aaid he hadn't realized some of the perceptions that people have of his work. He says he doesn't treat African-Americans differently from whites, but he understands opinions can differ.

"Two people can see the exact same thing from totally two different perspectives", says Rey, "and they can both be right. So I think that's one of the things we need to talk about and figure out why people are perceiving things that way."

Champaign Police Chief RT Finney says that with so many people from different backgrounds talking together, he expects to obtain ideas from the forum that will help improve policing and police-community relations in the city

City Manager Steve Carter says a report summarizing the comments and findings from the forum should be ready in a week to ten days. It will be sent to forum participants and posted on the Champaign city website.