CU candidates discuss concerns around defunding police 


Screenshot of Zoom

Champaign City Council member Clarissa Nickerson Fourman speaks during the “People’s City Council” forum on Thursday. Speakers at the forum discussed defunding the police in Champaign and Urbana.

By Mona Alrazzaq, Staff Writer

The Champaign-Urbana “People’s City Council,” a group of community activists running to fill the city council with progressive representatives in Champaign and Urbana, held a forum over Facebook Live where candidates discussed defunding the police and took questions from citizens.

This forum began with a land acknowledgement drafted with the assistance of the Native American House at the University. The acknowledgement recognized that the residents are currently living on land of territories of the Native American tribes. 

It continued with a moment of silence to the lives lost due to COVID-19, specifically mentioning those in Illinois and in prison within the statement. 

Justin Michael Hendrix, a candidate for Champaign City Council District 3, introduced a sample legislation supported by all candidates on the forum that called for “narrowing police roles to make space for fiscally responsible and effective services.” 

All candidates present on the panel noted the vagueness of the resolution but supported it overall. Each candidate shared specific views on their perspective on defunding the police, where the cut funding should go and whether they would accommodate people who held a different viewpoint. 

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    Jake Fava, candidate running for Ward 1 of Urbana, disagreed with how 21% of the upcoming Urbana city budget is dedicated to funding police, whereas 12% is allocated to community development. 

    He noted a “really clear opportunity to divert funding” to mental health, family and housing services in order to help prevent crime and increase quality of life for community members, which was echoed by many other candidates on the panel.

    “All these things are contributors and predictors of crime. The more that we can start to address those things, the less pressure we put on police to do everything,” Fava said. 

    Jared Miller, candidate running for Ward 7 of Urbana, noted how “different kinds of harm require different kinds of responses.” Many candidates agreed that responses to mental health crises and domestic violence situations should be handled by other services instead of the police. 

    Candidate for Champaign Township Supervisor Rita Conerly discussed how she herself has been directly impacted by the police and has had family members impacted by the police. This experience led her to believe there has to be a different response to mental health and to trauma.

    “Defunding the police is not only to better support our community, but it also to alleviate police from responding to calls in which they’re just not trained to deal with,” Conerly said.

    Incumbent candidate running for District 1 of Champaign, Clarissa Nickerson Fourman, noted that she supports fundamentally changing law enforcement, but she “represents a group of people who cannot live without the police.”

    Fourman said that the number one calls in her area are for domestic violence and that her children hear gunshots several times a week. However, she argued that the police are not fully equipped to deal with drug rehabilitation and mental health on top of all of their other duties.

    “You’re asking the police to go from a high speed chase to interviewing a rape victim,” Fourman said. “That’s ridiculous.”

    All candidates on the reform call are running for a position and will be on the ballot on either the consolidated primary election on Feb. 23 or the general election on April 6. 

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