Council weighs Police Review Board

By Crystal Kang

The Urbana City Council decided to address the reauthorization of the Citizen Police Review Board on Monday night.

The board, which is comprised of seven citizens appointed by Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, said it is committed to providing fair review of citizens’ complaints filed against Urbana police officers.

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Urbana City Council held a public hearing prior to the discussion about the ordinance. Some citizens suggested to the Council that they should create drastic changes to the ordinance. These suggested changes included allowing the board to appoint felons as staff and hiring internal investigators to personally handle each complaint on a case-by-case basis.

“In your review, you’ll take serious consideration to delete from the ordinance section 19-22-c, which states no person with a criminal felony conviction or plea (be allowed) on the board,” said Urbana resident Scott Dossett.

Dossett, member of the Citizen Police Review Board, said this section of the ordinance passed 3-2 during a meeting on April 8.

“The three (people) in favor saw it as discriminatory,” Dossett said. “The other two wanted more time for the (Citizen Police Review Board) to discuss that.”

Dossett said the board should appoint an independent investigator, which would allow each complaint to receive an adequate examination.

“None of us have time to go back to the scene of the crime (and examine) the citizens’ complaints,” Dossett said.

Other people said publicizing the existence of the Citizen Police Review Board through community outreach should be a priority.

Rev. Troy Burks from the Ministerial Alliance of Champaign-Urbana and Vicinity said the alliance had three major concerns for the board: hiring a diverse group of individuals, reducing the mayor’s absolute power to remove a board member and informing the public by distributing brochures and posters.

After the hearing about the ordinance, Human Relations Officer Todd Rent provided other people’s suggestions on how to improve the board.

He said no complaints had filed an appeal against Urbana police officers. Only eight complaints were filed in Urbana since the establishment of the board in August 2007.

“People shouldn’t be surprised that we don’t have any appeals yet,” Prussing said. “Urbana has a transparent government and good police department.”

The Council members suggested amending two items. The first is to change an error in the wording of “calendar” days to “working” days and the second, in the second to confirm that citizens will have 45 working days to file a complaint against a Urbana police officer when the event first occurred.

“We should make minor tweaks on the date and the mayor’s changes of (fixing the wording),” said Ward 7 Alderwoman Lynne Barnes. “I wouldn’t be in favor of making more substantial changes (regarding) the felon and independent investigator.”