Panel Exploring Champaign Police Review Board Starts To Get Public Input
A panel of Champaign police, city employees, and concerned citizens say they’re just starting to gather input on the concept of a Citizen Police Review Board. Monday night’s meeting at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church was the first of two this week to gather public input. There were calls for better explanations on how citizens can register complaints against officers, and for police to better market the complaint process.
Sixteen people attended the first of two meetings hosted by the 14-member working group.
Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery hopes the Citizen Review of Police Complaints Working Group does recommend the formation of a review board. She says many come to her, saying the officer complaint process is confusing.
“We need more education about the process itself – and I know that people feel somewhat intimidated by the process," she said. "That’s why I asked the question about whether or not citizens can go to a location other than the police department because I hear complaints of feeling intimated, just filing the complaint.”
Kiyonda Burgess, an African-American mother of three, wants an educational component to police procedures. Attending the meeting with her 10-year old son Jaiden, Burgess says she tries to educate her kids about the history of police brutality.
"They see the news, they see what's on line, and I try to shield them from as much as I possibly can," she said. "But I don't like the fact that they see sirens, and I look at them and I see fear. So for me, it's not just what to do when there's a complaint. I need to know that there's going to be something put in place so that my kids don't look at police with fear in their eyes."
Monday’s meeting was held at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, where working group member Keith Thomas is the pastor. He called the meeting a good starting point.
“We’re actually going to go forward with some of the ideas that come out of it," he said. "We’re actually going to take this back and have some real discussion. And then also, it lets us all know that ‘hey, if you just come and talk, there’s going to be some valuable ideas that are going to come about.”
If Champaign adopts a citizen police review board, it can take on one of several models discussed in Monday's meeting that were used to set up review boards in cities like San Francisco, Flint, Michigan, and nearby Urbana, which established its review board in 2011.
The working group will hold another meeting Thursday from 6 to 8 pm at Centennial High School. Thomas says the panel hopes have an entirely new list of ideas coming from Champaign’s west side. Future meeting sites haven’t been determined.