Group urges council members to vote against re-appointing police chief

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — An activist group is urging city leaders to make changes, starting with the police chief. This comes after more than a week of unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Now, dozens in central Illinois are asking for action in the name of racial justice.

After a week of protests and rioting throughout the country, some are asking Urbana City Council members to take action. A group called Stop Police Violence CU made a list of demands for council members.

The first is to vote against re-appointing Police Chief Bryant Seraphin. City council member Eric Jakobsson says he’s gotten dozens of emails from people about urging him to vote against it, but he plans to vote ‘yes’.

“We would really damage so many things if we didn’t re-appoint him,” said Jakobsson. “I have confidence in his record. I have confidence in his integrity.”

The second demand is to drop all charges against Aleyah Lewis. Lewis was charged with aggravated battery of a police officer, after they say she resisted arrest during a shots fired call. While arresting her, Urbana officers hit her. Those officers were cleared after an investigation by the police department and the state’s attorney’s office.

Now the city is moving forward with an independent investigation of the arrest. They are still in the process of deciding who will conduct that investigation. Jakobsson says he has nothing against that, but feels there are some misconceptions about Lewis’ case.

“Aleyah Lewis resisted and fought the officer who approached her to cuff her, and so it was necessary to use some level of force to get cuffs on her,” he explained. “To see this outpouring of distortions and falsehoods under the banner of racial justice, I find that… deeply troubling.”

We reached out to Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin and Chief Seraphin, but have not heard back.

Stop Police Violence CU is also asking for all officers involved in Lewis’ arrest be put on leave while that case is being investigated. Urbana City Council members will meet tonight to consider re-appointing Seraphin. We reached out to Seraphin and Urbana Mayor Marlin, but did not hear back.

Stop Police violence CU is also asking for the Citizen Police Review Board to be a “meaningful oversight”. Jakobsson agrees there should be changes in how it operates, starting with the review of every citizen complaint. Right now the police department reviews them first. The review board only handles them if a citizen appeals the response they get from the department.

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