Discussion on Urbana police review board grows more intense

By Liam Rinehart

The air was heavy and the words were loaded in the city council chambers Monday night.

In what seemed to be a repeat of last week’s session, the focus of discussion was squarely centered on the proposed Civilian Police Review Board. This time, it is was distinctly more confrontational.

To open up the public input section of the council, Robert Dunn pled with the council to vote down the legislation that would enact the review board. He linked the problems that the board would face with issues facing similar boards across the country. He also predicted a major change in the next election if his words were not taken seriously.

Council member Charlie Smyth countered Dunn’s claims and asked him for further proof.

“What’s the correlation?” Smyth said.

Soon after, Esther Patt, an Urbana resident and a major proponent of the proposition, applauded the work of the council and the spirit of the review board.

“The primary purpose is to bolster the public’s confidence in the police force,” she said.

She also answered some critics of the plan, saying the majority of rulings made by review boards reflect the initial actions of the police.

Aaron Ammons, a citizen of Urbana, revisited an issue he and others voiced last week. He asked the council if it had thought more seriously about the exclusion of felons from the board. When his question was met with silence, he claimed that by not allowing felons, the civilian police review board was teetering on the brink of discriminatory.

Ivan Ruiz, who said he had been involved in a long legal battle with the police, also spoke in favor of the board.

“This kind of stuff does happen here,” he said.

Ultimately he believed that if the council did not enact a more powerful review board, all of the work currently being invested into the program would be wasted.

“If it doesn’t have teeth, it’s a waste of time,” Ruiz said.

The majority of those that did speak were happy with the work of the police.

Chris Evans said that many of his interactions proved that the force was professional.

However, like many others, he was hopeful that such a review board could improve the relationship between the citizens and police.

“I see the civilian police review board as a way to improve the police department,” he said.