2 key players in Elgin police shooting aftermath now work full time for city
Two major players -- albeit on different sides -- in the aftermath of a fatal police shooting in Elgin are now working full time for the city.
Pastor Bob Whitt, who worked part time as community liaison for the police department, was hired last month by the city manager's office as a community engagement specialist at $67,179 per year.
Whitt worked to facilitate discussion between community members, including angry ones, and city officials after the March killing of resident Decynthia Clements.
One of those community members was Marcus Banner, a vocal activist who took center stage during protests -- he had a heated exchange with the former police chief -- and appearances at city council meetings advocating for the firing of Lt. Christian Jensen, who shot Clements.
Banner was hired by the city, also in July, as a utility worker at a yearly salary of $47,290.
The community engagement position hasn't been filled full time since 2014, and the role falls under the goals of the city's new strategic plan.
"While the city has many communication channels, there is still a need for someone to be dedicated to engaging with community members and groups in a more meaningful, personal way," Assistant City Manager Laura Valdez said.
Whitt started working for the police department in 2015. In his new role, he will attend community group meetings, work on special projects, perform general administrative work, develop new relationships within the community, and develop training programs and events, city spokeswoman Molly Center said.
"The relationships and trust built during Mr. Whitt work's with the police department proved to be of great value as the community faced adversity following the death of Decynthia Clements ..." she said. "It was also recognized that this type of engagement could be beneficial citywide."
Elgin faces "many challenges," including some present nationwide such as violence, drugs and mental health, Whitt said.
"It's my goal to provide a proactive balance of support to the community and the city, providing positive, long-term change where all feel like they can approach the city and get the resources or responses needed," Whitt said.
'I will speak up'
The city received 136 applications by early May for two utility worker openings, Center said. Forty-eight applicants passed a written test, 20 were selected for interviews and a team from public services team ranked the finalists, she said. Banner was one of two people hired.
"Banner has 15 years of experience in the construction and asphalt industry, and is well-qualified to perform the duties of a utility worker in the streets department," Center said.
Regarding Banner being one of the most prominent critics of the police department in the aftermath of the March shooting, Center said, "Banner is more than qualified to perform the duties of his position, and the city is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring process."
Banner said he took the city job because he wanted more stability to take care of his 2-year-old son and get a community nonprofit group established. He also has two teenage daughters, he said.
Banner said he plans to work for the city until he starts as a highway maintainer for the Illinois Department of Transportation on Sept. 17. The state job pays better than his current position, he said. Overall he has 19 years of related experience, including in snow plowing, he said.
Banner said he doesn't believe there is any conflict of interest between his city job and his role as an activist. He believes in fostering a good relationship between the community and the police department, he said, but also plans to continue speaking up while off-duty and advocate for the Jensen's firing.
"Everyone who knows me knows I will speak up," he said. "I couldn't do anything less."