Urbana City Council to vote on Taser purchase

By Fatima Farha

After several months of discussion regarding the purchase of Tasers by the Urbana Police Department, the Urbana City Council will take the matter to a vote on Monday.

If a majority of council members vote in favor of the ordinance, six Tasers will be purchased and their use will be overseen by the Civilian Police Review Board.

The purchase of Tasers has been highly debated during previous city council meetings — a majority of the community, especially the African-American community, has voiced concerns regarding the use of Tasers by the Urbana Police Department.

Despite concern from the community, Alderman Charlie Smyth, Ward 1, said there is a good chance the ordinance will pass through the committee of the whole.

Smyth said the African-American community is worried the Tasers will be used against them primarily, and while it is a difficult decision to make, he said there is good reason to vote for the purchase of Tasers.

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“My own view is that one of their primary uses is for people who are mentally unstable and a threat to themselves and others,” Smyth said. “And Tasers are being used in our community by the University and the Sheriff’s department, and the history there is that they haven’t been abused.”

City council members will also vote on ordinances approving a redevelopment agreement with Stephens Building LLC, revising the annual budget ordinance and amending the city code to give liquor licenses to certain restaurants, as well as those with video gambling terminals.

The council will also appoint Captain Derrick Odle of the Urbana Fire Department to the position of Fire Division Chief and Jason Patterson to the Public Arts Commission.

Following the mayoral appointments the council will vote on a resolution approving and authorizing a budget increase for the annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. The festival had a net loss last year due to poor weather conditions and low ticket sales, because of which it needs more funding from the government.

Fatima can be reached at [email protected].