Conversation between police and people spurs new policy ideas

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Unrest between law enforcement and the people they serve to protect has sparked a conversation about police reform.

Monday night’s community listening session was the first of a series hosted by the Champaign Police Department. The goal is to get input on how police can strengthen their relationship with the community. About a dozen people spoke to police and city council members by sharing their opinions on how police can better interact with people, serve more equitably, and why resources should be reallocated to pay for different people to respond to certain 911 calls.

This community listening session touched the surface of several topics centering on what can be done to build a better relationship between people and the police.

One suggestion was to have more training on how to approach conversations with people when officers go on calls. Minnie Pearson said, “When we are stopped by police, the first thing we look for no matter what is to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Other people focused on the topic of defunding police and what that looks like. While police are specifically trained to handle criminal intervention, another suggestion was to utilize people who are better able to handle certain situations like domestic violence and mental health de-escalation calls. Drake Materre said, “If we can implement a system where a social worker is on call for domestic violence issues, then they can go out there with the police officers as well.”

This perspective was shared by others in the meeting. Rita Conerly said, “It’s time to embrace alternatives like civilian-led crisis intervention teams composed of highly trained professionals including nurses, doctors, physiatrists, and social workers to respond to incidents with people who are in a mental health crisis.”

At the end of the listening session series, CPD will take the information and bring a full report to city council for discussion and review.

This is the first of five virtual zoom community meetings the city and the police department is hosting in the next few weeks. Members of the public are encouraged to participate in any of the following listening sessions:

  • Thursday, Sept. 24, 6-8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 29, 6-8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 3, 1-3 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 9, 1-3 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 13, 6-8 p.m.

Everyone is welcome to attend and provide their comments during any of the Zoom sessions. The sessions will also be available for live viewing on CGTV (Comcast and i3 Broadband channel 5, U-verse channel 99) and live streamed on the City’s website champaignil.gov/CGTV. Each session will be recorded and available for future on-demand viewing on the City’s website.

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