Champaign Council Approves Second Officer Rush Settlement, Protesters Call For Resignation
Champaign city council members have signed off a second excessive force lawsuit settlement involving the same police officer. But the 8-0 approval of the $225,000 settlement Tuesday came after an hour of public comment - and a march downtown from protestors, venting their frustration that Matt Rush still holds his job.
Around 150 demonstrators from groups like CU Citizens for Peace and Justice and Black Lives Matter made their way from the police station to the city building, carrying flyers that read: "Warning! Police officer Matt Rush is dangerous! He is rude and hostile toward citizens, particularly African Americans."
The outside rally, which led to the blocking of several downtown streets, was led by Urbana Alderman Aaron Ammons, also an active member of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice.
Rush was fired by Police Chief Anthony Cobb, only to be reinstated by an arbitrator.
During the council meeting, Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery held up a photo in the News-Gazette of Benjamin Mann, that showed injuries he sustained during an altercation in March 2014, leading to the lawsuit against Rush that was settled Tuesday.
"We cannot afford him," she said. "He’s a liability. He’s lost credibility – and I personally don’t want to see another citizen suffer like this.”
Champaign resident Kemp Adams says Rush fails to uphold the values and principles expected of police officers, as he read them from Champaign’s website.
“Performing our roles with the highest level of intregrity," he reads. "When is beating someone integrity? When is lying on your statement integrity? Of the role and duty that you are supposed to have?"
The group that filled council chambers called for Rush’s resignation, for Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Reitz to file criminal charges, as well as other preventative measures, like police body cameras, and a citizens police review board in Champaign with subpoena powers.
City council member Will Kyles is surveying other members on the idea of a review board, and wants to hold a study session on the topic in early 2016. He says some negotiations would be required in order to obtain subpoena officers.
"I want to engage all council members," he said. "And I will say this - there has definitely been a different tone of conversation about it. But inside, I don't want to build false hope on something."
Kyles said he needed more time to discuss the idea in depth with council members, saying "he didn't want to just give lip service to the community, but really do something effective."
Council member Marci Dodds was away Tuesday, on a previously planned vacation out of the country.
A third excessive force lawsuit involving Rush, brought by a compliant from Kisica Seets, could come before the council soon.