Elgin to look into creating civilian police review board
A majority of Elgin City Council members agreed to discuss options to create a civilian board that could investigate allegations of police misconduct and recommend discipline.
The initiative was spearheaded by Councilwoman Tish Powell after the fatal police shooting of resident Decynthia Clements last month. Clements was shot by Lt. Christian Jensen, who is on administrative leave pending an investigation by state police.
The city council Wednesday directed city staff members in a 7-2 vote to research civilian police review boards in other cities and present options to the council. Whether the council will create such a board is to be determined.
Powell said she did not want staff members to make any recommendations because such a policy decision -- including how the civilian police review board might be appointed and what powers it might have -- is up to the council.
"This is a great opportunity for us to do something that will help improve our relationship in the community with police," Powell said.
Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger agreed, saying, "It's a moment in time when we as a city council need to look at that, based on the recent (death) of Ms. Clements."
Clements' death March 12 was the first fatal police shooting in Elgin in 19 years. Police body camera video shows Clements was shot after she came out of her vehicle holding a knife.
Councilmen Terry Gavin, who voted "no" to Powell's proposal, pointed out last year's community survey gave high marks to police. The survey showed 78 percent of respondents said they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the overall professionalism of the department.
"That's an astounding figure that shows there's not a real problem there," Gavin said.
Councilman Rich Dunne said the high approval rate for police doesn't mean it can't improve. "I'm sure you'd like to see that be higher?" he asked Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, who replied, "Yes."
Police Deputy Chief Bill Wolf said nine residents lodged complaints against police in 2016, and 11 residents did so in 2017. Elgin has about 112,000 residents and 180 police officers.
Councilman Corey Dixon said there are people who have complaints but don't file them. "It's not about condemning the police department. This is us saying, 'Hey, there is an issue here, let's try to be proactive.' "
Councilman Toby Shaw also opposed Powell's proposal, saying the city council, not a civilian board, should be in charge of such matters. Still, it's important to ask tough questions on both sides, he said.