Elgin ready to recruit residents for community task force on police
Elgin officials are recruiting 10 to 12 residents to be part of a new community task force on policing that will help guide the department to adopt policies that create more trust between residents and officers.
While the city council approved the creation of the task force a year ago, the pandemic and a desire to find a qualified outside consultant to guide the new group slowed the process.
But officials signaled their readiness to push forward this week by unveiling an online application for residents to join the task force. The council also approved the guidelines for the task force's work, which was laid out by the outside consultant at a meeting Wednesday night. The consulting firm, Kearns & West, specializes in facilitating communication between governments and citizens.
The guidelines begin with building a task force diverse in gender, age, race, ethnicity, profession, economic status and neighborhoods.
Larry Schooler, the team lead from Kearns & West, pointed to the city's 2010 Census information as a guideline for building a task force that reflects the city's diversity.
But council member Tish Powell cautioned that guideline misses the target for what officials hope the task force will achieve.
"African American comprises less than 10% of the population. They represent a much greater proportion of police interaction, and they've probably been the most vocal about the need for this task force," Powell said. "If we are not having the people who are most affected on this task force, we are going to risk the public's point of view as to the legitimacy of this task force."
Likewise, council member Rose Martinez said the more recent 2020 Census will show Hispanic residents are now the majority population in the city. That should be reflected on the task force, she said, but she pointed to the need for diversity even within that community.
"We have a large Mexican population, but we are not just Mexican," Martinez said. "We have a large Columbian community and a large Puerto Rican community."
Powell also pushed for broadening the task force's mission to go beyond reviewing recruitment policies, training standards and the use of police in local schools. She urged discussion about police culture, accountability and trust.
"People need to know upfront that we are serious about addressing those issues," Powell said.
The task force would meet for an hour or two every other week for the next six months. Members and the public can participate in the discussions in person or online.