What's next for Elgin after return of officer who shot woman?
What's next for Elgin after the announcement that police Lt. Christian Jensen is being reinstated?
City and police officials say they will continue to work to improve policing -- several initiatives are in place or in progress -- and to have conversations with the community, although there are no specifics about the latter yet.
Jensen has been on paid leave since he fatally shot resident Decynthia Clements on March 12, 2018. He will come back to work this month and will oversee the police department's 911 communications center, Police Chief Ana Lalley said. Jensen will be on administrative duty and will work exclusively at the police station, she said.
The position Jensen is taking has been open since April; candidates were interviewed, but no one was hired, Lalley said.
Lalley wouldn't say if Jensen might return to regular duty in the future.
"Everyone needs to take a breath and get situated with what we're doing, and see what the future holds," she said. "I don't know what it's going to be a year from now, or two years from now."
As for the next steps, Lalley said she'll be meeting this month with consultant Christopher Mallette, who helped lead a "listening session" in August and also met with members of the community. "We will figure some type of strategy, plan, and what our next steps are," she said.
Listening sessions help the city gauge whether it's on the right track, Assistant City Manager Laura Valdez said. "We have continued to talk with people about these initiatives and have heard positive feedback," she said.
The news of Wednesday's decision to reinstate Jensen prompted many positive comments from residents online and on social media.
However, activists who advocated for Jensen to be fired said the community's trust is broken.
"The message (from the city) is that when it comes to especially black and brown life, you can get away with this and you will be protected," resident Corey Battles said, adding he was particularly incensed that Jensen got no discipline.
Activist Marcus Banner said there is nothing the city can do to help the community heal. Banner also said he believes the decision might trigger individuals who already harbor anger against police to act out if they have an encounter with law enforcement.
Police want peace, Lalley said.
"We are going to be having discussions with the community about what the future holds, and I need people to be involved in that conversation with me," she said.
Lalley said residents should judge the police department by the work it has done in the wake of the shooting. That includes forming a special unit for mental health response, formalizing a committee to review use of force, and getting officers certified in crisis intervention.
The department is reviewing all its policies, implementing "early-warning" software for officer performance, and working with the Center for Policing Equity, which uses data to measure bias in policing.
"We want to be the best police department that we can be and to serve our community honorably," Lalley said.
A group of 19 clergy in Elgin had opposed Jensen's return. Their spokesman, the Rev. Mark Weinert, said there is no unified position about whether putting Jensen on administrative duty is an acceptable alternative.
The clergy are committed to continuing to work with the city and police department, Weinert said.
"There has been a task force that has been meeting with city leaders to push for issues of implicit bias, mental health and use of force. We're at the very early stages," he said.