News Local/State

Williams: Rush Incidents Have ‘Derailed’ Improved Relations With Police

A still from the Champaign Police dashcam video of the March 16, 2014 arrest of Benjamin Mann.

A still from the Champaign Police dashcam video of the March 16, 2014 arrest of Benjamin Mann.

A leader in Champaign’s African-American community says incidents involving Police Officer Matt Rush have derailed efforts to improve relations with law enforcement.  Seon Williams says the city deserves better officers on the street who make better decisions.

Letters of discipline signed by Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb this week show he’s fired Rush for the second time. 

Cobb says he’s failed to adequately document incidents involving use of force, and that he displayed his badge and off-duty gun while intoxicated at a local bar recently.  Cobb also fired Rush in 2014, but that decision was reversed by a union arbitrator.

Williams says he now hopes Champaign Police step up recruitment efforts to bring in officers that understand the city’s needs, and want to stay in the city a while.

“I think that we need to work on the future, work on policy and procedures, work on union contracts, and work with the police union, to just understand the position what position we’re in, and the amount of years that we’ve been working on trying to build this trust.”

Williams says there have also been great efforts to build ties in the community since the 2009 police shooting of teenager Kiwane Carrington, which was ruled accidental.

Officer Rush has also been tied to four excessive force lawsuits, three of them totaling $320,000 in settlements with the city.

Meanwhile, the union representing Champaign Police personnel says it will appeal the department’s decision to fire Rush for a second time.

Spokesperson David Blanchette with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council says that with the appeal of this second firing, another hearing before an arbitrator is likely.

“It will almost certainly result in arbitration, just like the previous cases with officer Rush have done," he said.  "As far as the time table, we don’t know exactly how long that’s going to take.”

In addition to the four lawsuits against Rush, the officer has filed his own lawsuit, accusing Chief Cobb and local NAACP President Patricia Avery of conspiring to fire him.