Urbana discusses opportunity for citizens to review police department

By Liam Rinehart

In the Urbana City Council chambers Monday, citizens as well as councilmembers spoke against the proposed Citizen Review Board, which would act as an appellate body for citizens who had complaints against the police department. In response, the council held off on a final decision and sent it back to be revised.

“It is the right move; the right step,” said Charles Nash, pastor of the New Hope Church of God in Christ in Champaign.

But Nash warned of the problems that the review would face with the council and the police, comparing it to disciplining a sibling.

“How easy would it be to discipline your sister or brother?” he said.

The issue of a review board for police has been in the works for over a couple of years. Multiple viewpoints have been sought out in the creation of the ordinance with the Fraternal Order of Police, the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, the city council and community leaders all having a say in its writing.

“There should be an outside means of investigation,” said Mayor Laurel Prussing.

She added she was hopeful that this board would be a “safety valve” to insure all citizens were heard.

There were concerns from citizens, however, that all of the voices with a say in the board’s development might have muddied the original intent.

Brian Dolinar, a professor at both Parkland and the University, believed that without investigative powers and the ability to subpoena, the board would be left without the capacity to deal with a complicated case if it were to arise.

“Years down the road, we’ll be facing the same problem,” he said.

When Ivan Ruiz, a citizen of Urbana, appeared before the council, he recited multiple incidents where police mistreated, singled out and tasered people.

“For the people in these stories – all African American – the incidents described are a daily occurrence,” he said.

Aaron Ammons, a citizen of Urbana, worried that felons were being let out of the picture and unduly discriminated against for their prior actions. According to the legislation, felons would not be able to be a member of the review board.

“Operate from the position that people with a felony conviction are not going to go against the police,” said Ammons.

Towards the end of the meeting, Councilwoman Danielle Chynoweth took a stand against the ordinance. Like many of the citizens, she worried that the review board would not have effective power since it would not be able to subpoena

“Police reports are secret at this point,” she said. “If we had trust, we wouldn’t need a civilian review board of police.”