Champaign votes no to implement police review board

By Liam Rinehart

In Urbana, there have been many months of deliberation on the issue of a police review board. For Champaign, it took one session.

On Monday at the Champaign City Council, citizens, advocates and police officers from the area provided their optimism and the criticisms of the measure. But with a 5-4 vote against the proposal, the idea is dead in the water.

The last time the city council looked seriously at a police review was in 1998. However, in the last two years, work on the issue began anew. It has been slow because, as City Manager Steven Carter said, “This is a topic that generates emotions on all sides.”

Tracy Parsons, President of the Urban League of Champaign County, was the first to present.

His voice has been a consistent one in the Urbana City Council chambers and, again, he presented his support of the board.

“I do believe public safety and civil liberties can coincide in black, Latino and poor neighborhoods,” Parsons said.

He said he was well aware of the council’s disposition towards the issue and encouraged everyone to look at the positives, such as the creation of goodwill in the community.

“Look at this issue with an open mind,” Parsons said.

Soon after, Deputy Chief of Police Troy Daniels gave the view of the Champaign Police Department. Instead of pushing for the creation of a review board, the department plans to implement higher standards within the complaint system already established and is currently seeking official approval from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Later in the session, Police Chief R.T. Finney supported the new accreditation process.

“It’s a difficult process to go through; it’s a difficult process to maintain,” he said.

Daniels did not deny where the department’s allegiance lay.

“The authority to police comes from the citizens,” he said.

Stan Levy and Mark Aber were the last to officially present on the proposal. Both have served on the Human Relations Commission, saying that the recommendations came from grounded and serious discussion.

“There were no preconceived notions of what the outcome should (be when we started),” said Levy.

Levy went on to say the measure was not perfect, but the best step towards something positive.

Aber was more concerned with some of the alarming statics. While there were only two dozen complaints last year, African Americans comprised two-thirds of them, despite being less than 20 percent of the population. He also said that for African Americans, almost twice as many complaints were officially ruled unfounded, meaning there is no basis of truth.

Most of those who came in front of the board shared a similar sentiment. They wanted an oversight of the police department.

However, as the lone voice of dissent against the majority view, Robert Dunn, citizen of Urbana, spoke against the review board.

“Most of this is coming from a special interest group,” he said. “They are on the fringes.”