Elgin mayor wants to push forward discussion about review of police complaints

  • Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said he plans to push forward on May 22 a discussion about creating a civilian police board or commission that would review residents' complaints against police.

    Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said he plans to push forward on May 22 a discussion about creating a civilian police board or commission that would review residents' complaints against police.

  • Elgin City Council members Tish Powell and Corey Dixon want to create a civilian body that would review residents' complaints against police.

      Elgin City Council members Tish Powell and Corey Dixon want to create a civilian body that would review residents' complaints against police. BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

 
 

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said he plans to push forward May 22 with a discussion regarding creation of a civilian body to review residents' complaints against police.

"This was a promise from the council a year ago that we would do this," Kaptain said. "A proposal was emailed by staff (to council members) in September and it was stopped by a couple of people who can't decide what they want. This has been going on long enough."

Kaptain was referring to council members Tish Powell and Corey Dixon, who said they welcome the chance to continue the discussion. Their issue, they said, is the proposal emailed by City Manager Rick Kozal "doesn't have enough teeth."

That proposal, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, turns the Elgin Police Citizens Advisory Committee -- it advises the police department on procedures and policies -- into a formal body that would assist people who contact the committee to file complaints against police. The committee could then review the department's investigations of those complaints and make a nonbinding recommendation to the police chief.

The committee, however, would not review other complaints filed against police, such as those filed by people who walk into the police station. Powell and Dixon said they want a body that would review all complaints.

"We want to do this because we want our citizens to have some input in how they are policed," Powell said.

Dixon and Powell met with Kozal in October to relay their concerns. In December, Kozal emailed them a second proposal -- one he made clear he doesn't endorse -- for a body mirroring the civilian police oversight agency in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That agency employs investigators and metes out discipline, and was created after a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Powell and Dixon said they agree that is too extreme for Elgin.

"The sweet spot is somewhere in between," Dixon said.

Powell brought up the idea of a civilian police review board in the aftermath of the March 2018 fatal police shooting of resident Decynthia Clements. The council voted 7-2 in April 2018 to have staff members do research and present options to the council.

Powell and Dixon said they were disappointed that, instead of providing options, Kozal crafted a proposal. "Corey and I are in the process of doing that legwork ourselves now, which is obviously taking more time," Powell said.

Kozal said he gauged consensus among council members during individual meetings last summer, common procedure for new initiatives. The proposal from September has the support of Police Chief Ana Lalley, he said.

While cities across the country have had serious issues with policing, Kozal said, that's not the case in Elgin. He pointed to the low number and nature of complaints in Elgin, and to the addition of "community advocates" last year to help residents file complaints.

Last year, there were 12 residents' complaints against police, two involving use of force. In 2017 and 2016, there were 11 and 9 complaints, respectively, in the city of about 112,000 residents.

Councilman Terry Gavin, who opposes creating any type of civilian police review body, pointed out a 2017 survey showed an average 80% of residents were pleased with the effectiveness and professionalism of the police department.

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