Elgin residents speak about shooting as police, city officials listen in silence
A "listening session" Saturday about a fatal shooting of a black woman by a white police officer in Elgin gave residents a chance to express their feelings without interruption.
No one retorted, replied or commented. No one carefully clocked answers or banged the gavel.
Instead, police and city officials quietly listened for about two hours to what 25 or so residents had to say about the March 12, 2018, fatal shooting of Decynthia Clements, and whether the officer who fired the shots should come back to work.
Several said Lt. Christian Jensen should not be reinstated. Having that opinion doesn't equate to being anti-police, said the Rev. Dave Daubert of Zion Lutheran Church.
Larry Henderson, senior overseer of Kingdom Advancement Center, suggested creating a task force with "capable representatives from each part of the community" to come up with a process and strategies to move forward.
"The ugly racial past of this entire country is the weight we are now feeling with this decision in Elgin," he said.
Those who faced the audience were City Manager Rick Kozal, Police Chief Ana Lalley, Police Deputy Chief Colin Fleury, and Community Engagement Specialist Bob Whitt. Other city and police officials were in attendance. The decision about Jensen is up to Kozal after a recommendation from Lalley.
Jensen shot Clements after he and three other officers moved to rescue her from her burning vehicle and she exited holding two knives. Jensen has been on paid leave since the shooting, which was found justifiable by the Cook County state's attorney's office in February and the consulting firm Hillard Heintze in July.
"I think (Jensen) thought he did the right thing, but obviously it wasn't. It wasn't for my daughter," Clements' father, Charles Clements, said.
Resident Sandy Smith said she has "a lot of appreciation" for Elgin police but she doesn't see how Jensen coming back would be healthy for the community. Still, there are people who believe it would be unfair for Jensen to be fired, she said.
The session Saturday was held in the Seigle Auditorium of Elgin Community College, with the help of Chicago consultant Christopher Mallette and his partner Charles Perry. Listening sessions can allow the healing process to begin, Mallette said.
He acknowledged the community feels "a lot of fatigue" because it's been 17 months since the shooting. Still, the session was a valuable tool in the process of figuring out what community themes -- such as questions around racism, implicit bias, police legitimacy and procedural justice -- city officials need to address moving forward.
"Elgin has a moment of opportunity right now," Mallette said. "You have an opportunity for change and an opportunity for the citizenry to be involved in that."