Champaign Police Arrest Investigation Could Begin this Week
Little has been released regarding a police video of an arrest made last summer by Champaign Police, but City Manager Steve Carter says a possible investigation by state police could start later this week.
Carter wouldn't elaborate on what he calls 'troubling' behavior by a city police officer on June 5, other than to say pepper spray was used and the officer's tactics were in question. Police department personnel investigated, and Chief R.T. Finney issued a finding that the officer's actions regarding 'use of force" were within police and training standards.
"The responsibility of ensuring a complete and accurate investigation into the actions of police department personnel falls solely within my office as the Chief of Police," Finney said in a statement. "I continue to have complete support and confidence in the men and women who work at the Champaign Police Department."
The names of the officer and Champaign man arrested haven't been released. Although the incident happened in June, Carter only saw the in-car video last Wednesday - brought to his attention by Councilman Tom Bruno. Carter said the primary goal is seeing this case resolved, so there is justice for both the individual and the officer.
"These are very difficult circumstances, and we'll want to take a look at what's the right thing to come out of this for both of those," Carter said. "So, the individual case needs to be resolved for sure. Wherever that leads us is where we need to go. "
Carter said the broader issue is that of policy related to use of force, and how it impacts police complaints. He said that is why outside experts will be brought in to review that policy.
Bruno said he is waiting for a thorough investigation to take place before he jumps to any conclusions about whether excessive force was used in the arrest. He added that this case could have an impact on discussions about a possible citizens police review board:
"When the decision is made to pursue with the idea of a citizens review board - it's instances like this that the public and the city council will take into consideration to determine whether a citizen's review board would be a helpful tool," Bruno said.
There have been new calls for a citizens police review board in Champaign in the wake of the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington. A number of citizens also allege officers beat 18-year old Calvin Miller on the night of his arrest on the early morning hours of Oct. 17, 2011.
Champaign City Council member Will Kyles brought up the idea last month of creating a committee to review complaints against the Champaign Police Department. After watching the police video, Kyles questions whether excessive force was used, and that may justify the need for a citizens' police review panel.
"This is an example of why we should have a police citizen review board, and kind of look at these issues," he said. "That is a great argument. Me being the person that brought the citizen review board back up."
Carter and Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz met with State Police on Friday. He said they will decide in a few days whether to investigate the incident.
At the request of the individual's family, there are no current plans to release the police video to the media or public. However, Illinois Public Media has filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain footage from the police dash camera.
The city is also in the process of seeking a new police chief. Finney announced last summer that he was retiring, and Deputy Chief Holly Nearing will take over as interim chief on Dec. 5. Both staffing changes aren't related to the June 5 arrest, according to Carter.
Last week, Carter announced four finalists for the police department's top chief.
Related Video: Champaign City Manager Steve Carter talks about the incident