Champaign Council Approves $70,000 Settlement, Third Involving Officer Rush
As expected, the Champaign City Council has unanimously approved a third excessive force lawsuit settlement involving police officer Matt Rush. Concerned citizens say they’re now looking to elected officials to keep such a thing from happening again.
In mid-December, around 150 protesters packed the city council chambers, calling for Officer Rush to resign.
But just a handful of people attended Tuesday night's city council meeting, including Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery, who says the community has done its job by stating Rush has violated the public trust.
She wants Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz to file charges against him, or at least provide an answer for why she hasn't done so.
"If the shoe were on the other foot, and you had citizens that were being excessive and aggressive against our law enforcement officers, the charges would be brought up quick, fast, and in a hurry," Avery told the council. "We expect some answers from answers from our state’s attorney, we know that you’ve done all that you can do, we’re just sorry that it comes at the expense of the taxpayers.”
Champaign Police fired Rush in 2014, but an arbitrator reinstated him to the job, under the terms of the Fraternal Order of Police contract. City Council member Will Kyles says he too wants a response from Rietz, but also seeks a change in state law regarding arbitration.
“Those are the rights that he is afforded, and if I were an officer, I’d want those rights too," Kyles said. "I think where the question comes into play – with the FOP and the arbitration process, is that they have have to ask themselves – is this the guy that we want to say has done the right thing? Is this the guy that we want to stand behind? Is this the guy that we’re saying that we’ll go all out for?”
Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen says the council is planning a meeting with Urbana city leaders, and the cities may hire a lobbyist to pursue changes in state law governing the arbitration process.
Kyles also says positives have come out of approving the excessive force settlements. He says there’s a different tone now in relations between the minority community and the city council compared to a few years ago, after the 2009 accidental police shooting death of teenager Kiwane Carrington.
Kyles also says the city council also plans a study session sometime before the summer to pursue the idea of a citizens police review board, with subpoena powers.
The $70,000 payment approved by the city council settles a lawsuit filed by Kisica Seets against the city of Champaign, Rush and other officers. Altogether, the three settlements of excessive force lawsuits involving Rush cost the city $320,000.
Council members say Officer Rush remains on leave - leave that is currently unpaid, according to the News-Gazette.