Champaign Police-Community Relations Scrutinized
The topic of police abuse brought out a large crowd to Tuesday night's Champaign City Council study session. It wasn't an item on the agenda, but it grew out of the alleged police beating of a teenager who was stopped by Champaign police over the weekend for a traffic violation.
At least a hundred people showed up in support of 18-year-old Calvin Miller. They wore yellow "I stand with Calvin Miller" signs.
Multiple news reports say Miller was pulled over by police at around 1:30 Monday morning, and he fled the scene after his car damaged the front porch of a home.
Miller is free on bond after he was picked up for resisting arrest.
During a discussion about the city's finances, council member Will Kyles asked to break from procedure by allowing the audience to have public comment about issues unrelated to the agenda. Calvin Miller's father, Martel Miller, stood up and spoke. Martel claims his son was beaten by a police officer.
"This is my son! He got beat. How can you make something for five years from now if you haven't counted the lawsuits that are going to come down from police abuse?" Miller said. "Have you counted that in your budget for five years?"
Miller said the Champaign Police Department needs to deal with several of its officers who have abused their authority.
"The African American community should not be scared of the police," Miller said.
It has been a couple of years since the 2009 police-shooting death of Champaign teenager, Kiwane Carrington. Critics say that incident was a symptom of long-standing problems in Champaign police-community relations, particularly involving African-American youth. Now with the alleged beating of Calvin Miller, there is renewed anger and frustration.
Patricia Avery, a member of the city's community and police partnership, spoke at the meeting. Avery said the culture of the Champaign Police Department must change.
"We've been working at this problem for a very long time, and every time I think we're starting to make some progress, something like this happens where we have to step back," Avery said. "And then it's almost like, 'What do you do now? What do you say?' I'm really very disturbed by this."
The city is exploring a proposal to create a Citizens Police Review Board. Mayor Don Gerard said he is open to such a group.
"I ran for mayor for a reason, and a big part of that was the Kiwanne Carrington incident," Gerard said. "I was frustrated with how I perceived the leadership to respond. Now I'm in this position, and I have to stand up and be representative of the community."
Martel Miller said he hasn't filed a lawsuit, but he said he is talking to lawyers about his son's case.
A few years ago, eavesdropping charges were filed against Miller, who helped make a documentary attempting to show differences in how police officers in Champaign County treat minority residents compared to white University of Illinois students. Those charges were later dropped.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)