Advocacy Groups Chafe At Delayed Citizen Review Board Vote | WGLT

Advocacy Groups Chafe At Delayed Citizen Review Board Vote

Jul 11, 2017

Another special meeting Monday on a proposed Bloomington police citizen review board drew more than 100 people who gave, at times, heated input to aldermen.

Five Bloomington City Council members delayed a scheduled vote on Monday to hear more from Police Chief Brendan Heffner.

Stefen Robinson, who teaches at Normal Community High School, attended a pre-meeting rally.

"Police have never been on the side of progress in this country. They have always been used to beat back worker rights, to beat back civil rights. And so, it is patently absurd that we do not have an oversight committee made up of civilians to hold them accountable in our community," said Robinson.

"It is patently absurd that we do not have an oversight committee made up of civilians to hold (police) accountable in our community."

Heffner told council members he doesn't like saying the existing complaint process is broken when it hasn't been utilized much. But resident Louis Goseland said it's the process that part of the community does not trust given documented disproportionate enforcement.

Jennifer Johnson said she has officers in her family, but her daughter remains afraid of police. She said the public should not have to be afraid of the people who have sworn to protect and defend them.

"Chief Heffner met my daughter at the last meeting and he gave her some reasonably sound advice. Rather than saying police are your friends, trust the police, he said you should not judge people until you get to know them, not even the police. They became fast friends. And that is what I feel this community review board can provide for us," said Johnson.

Johnson said the review panel is not meant to harm officers, but to bridge the gap, to help officers know the community and the community to know the officers.

Alderman David Sage repeated his earlier position that there are many ways to file a complaint against police and that a civilian review panel seems like a solution in search of a problem.
    
Ky Ajayi of Black Lives Matter responded that documented disproportionate enforcement against people of color emphasizes why parts of the community do not trust police to investigate themselves.
 
Heffner told the Bloomington City Council his officers will be there to serve the public no matter what happens with a citizens review board.

A vote whether to create the panel could come later this month.

WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.