News Local/State

Champaign Permanently Terminates Officer Matt Rush

Former Champaign Police Officer Matt Rush, the subject of Tuesday's separation agreement with the city.

Former Champaign Police Officer Matt Rush, the subject of Tuesday's separation agreement with the city. Champaign Police

The city of Champaign has permanently terminated police officer Matt Rush after two-and-a-half years of appeals and litigation. City Manager Dorothy David announced the $50,000 separation agreement with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police at the conclusion of Tuesday's Champaign City Council meeting. Rush was twice fired by the city, and was the subject of multiple excessive force lawsuits.

"His personnel record with the city will show that he was terminated from his employment effective April 13, 2016, and he will have no right to future reinstatement," said David, who added that this agreement will help develop police-community relations. 

“I trust that our community will see this agreement as a positive step toward that goal," she said. "It is important to remember that the actions of one former employee do not reflect on the professionalism of the entire police force.”

The city has already settled three of the four lawsuits involving the former officer, totaling $320,000. Most of the alleged victims were African-American.

The second firing stems from an incident at Champaign's Fat City Bar and Grill in which he displayed his gun and badge while off-duty and on leave.

Tuesday's agreement with Illinois’ Fraternal Order of Police came less than 24 hours before a meeting with an independent arbitrator was to have been held, which could have forced the city to reinstate Rush again.

An arbitrator had already ruled in Rush's favor twice previously, including a 2015 ruling that reinstated him to the Champaign Police Department, reducing his firing to a short suspension.

Council member Matt Gladney backs the agreement, but says ending Rush’s employment with the city for good is “not a champagne-popping moment”, simply because it’s taken so long to get to this point, including all his time on the council.

“And also because the path to this decision is strewn with the hurt and the wounded - that will not be easily absolved by this decision," Gladney said.

Mayor Deb Feinen says this agreement allows Champaign Police to move forward as an organization.

"In my opinion, it's harder to police and engage with the community while all this is going on in the background," she said. Feinen says council members plan to meet with state legislators, and ask them to consider changes to the arbitration process.

Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council General Counsel Tamara Cunnings released the following statement Tuesday night.

“The settlement with the City of Champaign will allow Matt Rush to move on with his life following a long and contentious battle to continue serving the citizens in the community he loves. While independent arbitrators have ruled on two separate occasions that Matt should keep his job, it was obvious from the beginning that the city did not want him to stay and that officials would continue to do everything in their power to remove him.”

“We have prevailed in every impartial legal proceeding involving Matt and are confident that any future rulings would have gone our way as well. But given the toxic atmosphere toward him, Matt's continued service with the Champaign Police Department would not have benefited him, his fellow officers or the community's citizens. The financial settlement approved by the City Council is the best option for all parties to move forward.”