Champaign County NAACP Pres. Avery On Police & African American Relations

Patricia Avery, Pres. of Champaign County NAACP

Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery

(Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media)

Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery talks about her goals for improvements in relations between African Americans and local police.

Avery, who is also executive director of the Champaign-Urbana Area Project, says she was deeply upset by the two recent grand jury decisions related to the shootings of unarmed African Americans by police in New York City and Ferguson Missouri. In an interview with Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows, Avery says that locally, relations between police and the African American community have improved in the five years since a black teen-ager, Kiwane Carrington, was killed in an altercation with a Champaign police officer. But she says there’s more to be done.

Story source: WILL

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Transcript for file: news20141210_averyinterviewedit2.mp3

Well the one thing that has changed is since he won we have police chief cop Anthony Col Anthony Cobb but we have a new chief of police. And certainly he has been willing to work closely with the community to help improve the relationship with the African-American community and he had been in Urbana before coming here and he is himself African-American .

You’re saying he has made a concerted effort.

Yeah himself he has made a concerted effort himself but he himself cannot ease all of the tensions between the African-American community in law enforcement. There is just a historical mistrust among the two. Well knowing that we cannot have some false sense of security because we know that we have Officer Cobb at the helm. What we need is real reform of the system because no matter who is in charge. Whether he be the chief cop who like I said you know we we’ve we’ve been able to make some improvement in terms of relationships between his department in the community. But there are still some institutional changes.

Reform that needs to be made an institutional you meaning the culture among police officers.

And that’s going to take some time this is an institution that has been running the way it has for generations. There is a code among the blue that there is a bond in which they don’t cross the line. But there is some cultural changes I think that have to go on within not just from a cultural standpoint but I think that there needs to be some serious policy changes that are done at the local level in order to help ease the tensions and build trust among the African-American communities in the law enforcement. One thing I think that needs to happen is there needs to be a residency requirement. There used to be. I think we need to get back to that because I believe that if you are a police officer policing that immunity you should have some sense. Of who those people are. You should have some sense of their culture or their experiences. If you’re a city employee you have to live in the city of Champaign. Why is it that if you are a police officer you don’t have to live in the city. Champagne. That makes no sense to me. Number two I think that when police officers are first assigned to him and I know this is this has to do with the contract negotiations where police officers that are brought in new police officers they call them brookies they should not have the ability to choose what community so what district or what precinct they patrol in which shifts they choose to patrol it.

What sort of harm have you seen from having rookie officers choose where they patrol .

We’ve heard of intimidation tactics. There’s a lack of respect. You know I’ve I’ve got many cases where there’s been a call to the community. The officers have answered the call. When people ask what’s going on just there’s been blatant disrespect he stay out of it all arrest you just the communication between some of the law enforcement officers who have no real sense of the people that they’re policing. They don’t understand the culture. They don’t understand the people. There’s a breakdown in communication because there’s a breakdown in trust.

So are you saying that some areas are and maybe some predominately black areas of the city are on a regular basis getting them the less experienced officers because of the choice that officers have.

I believe so. That’s that’s typically what I’ve been hearing that a lot of the younger more inexperienced officers cut their teeth in the black communities.

Or is that because they’ve chosen that area are because other officers have chosen other areas leaving that area to the less experienced officer.

I think it’s because they have the ability to choose their districts. They have the ability to choose what shifts they want to work in it appears that many of the younger officers choose to patrol those communities and work those districts and what shifts to they prefer a lot of them that we’ve been getting complaints about like the night shift.

Could you tell me a little bit more about that that there’s a particular problem with the night shift and what does that mean as far as how things work out in the community.

Well it seems that a lot of the complaints that we hear a lot of times these complaints happen at night. Oh I don’t know why that is but there are a lot of the officers who we find the biggest complaints come from districts where they’re highly.

A lot of African-American residents and the complaints are generally at night when you talk to people in the police department do you see besides the chief who you said has made an effort do you see other members of the staff other administrators other officers who are making a concerted effort to improve those relationships between the department and the African-American.

I think so. We do have a number of great officers working for the champagne police department in any department you know overwhelmingly I believe that we have good officers but it only takes one. The president said it best. This is not an illusion that there are problems in the community between the law enforcement in the African-American communities. When we see these cases case after case where you have. Police shootings between unarmed African-American men of course is going to be this tension that should not be police officers are there to protect and serve. But that has not been the experience of the African-American and communities of color when it comes to police and community relations.

What are you looking for what is the champagne coming in Double A C.P. looking for in terms of a way to take action to make change happen.

Bess foresty another way C.P. what we would like to see is a standard issue body cameras for all police officers. We would like to have a retraining on the use of force tactics and certainly looking at residency is a big issue for us locally.