Urbana Police Review Panel Hears Its First Appeal
The resident who filed the first case heard by Urbana's Civilian Police Review Board says it exposes a flawed process.
Aaron Ammons of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice filed the complaint stemming from an incident in September of last year. He says officers arrived outside a relative's home with guns drawn, when it was learned later than officers arrived at the wrong address, and that someone elsewhere was being threatened at gunpoint. Ammons says an officer threatened him when asking what they were doing at his relative's home.
The case was heard and sustained by the CPRB last week. Urbana's police review panel was first formed in 2008. Ammons says he recognizes nothing else will be heard in his case, but hopes the city has learned some lessons. He says those include bringing the officer or officers cited in a complaint before the panel.
"I think from a public standpoint, it's pretty clear," said Ammons. "It doesn't make sense to have a complaint filed,and go to the CPRB, and the very person that the complaint is filed against doesn't have to show up. That's unacceptable."
Urbana Human Relations Officer Todd Rent says the review panel can subpoena witnesses, but not police officers. He says a police commander sits in on meetings in an advisory role only, without a vote. Rent says there are no other appeals currently waiting CPRB action.
Ammons also contends that the Civilian Police Review Board's Chair, Tom Costello, was trying to justify the officer's behavior instead of acting independently. Costello says the group followed the process as prescribed by the city's ordinance. But he says it doesn't mean there won't be a review of how that appeal was heard.
"I think we're going to take a look at it, and see how it went, and see if there's some modifications that we need to make," said Costello. "With any part of the process, this is an evolving process, we have to see how it goes."
Rent says of the 6 complaints filed about Urbana police conduct this year, one is still being reviewed by the police department. With its first appeal heard, Rent says he expects future cases to go more smoothly.
Ammons says CU Citizens for Peace and Justice will be working on suggestions of its own to bring before the city.
Talk of a citizens police review board in Champaign has resurfaced, largely at the urging of city council member Will Kyles, and after allegations of a police beating during the arrest of 18-year old Calvin Miller.
At Tuesday night's Champaign City Council meeting, Council member Karen Foster said she is open to that idea, but she said she'd rather first explore other solutions to resolve communication issues that exist between the police department and the rest of the community. Mayor Don Gerard has said he's open to such a group.