'This didn't just start a week or two ago,' Elgin chief says about initiatives to improve policing
Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley said she wants the department to continue tackling questions about race and anticipates an external examination of police arrests and stops might be done by September.
Lalley chose to work with the nonprofit Center for Policing Equity, a nonprofit group that examines police data to see if there is racial disparity and to help improve relationships with the community. The center has had Elgin's data since last year, Lalley said.
"If there is something we need to work on, I would like to know," she told the city council Wednesday.
Elgin's 2019 crime report data shows 24.9% of people arrested were black, 41.5% were Latino and 24.4% were white. By comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Elgin's population that year was 6% black, 45.2% Latino and 40.9% white.
Elgin officers have gone through bias training offered by the group Fair and Impartial Policing and will be getting a refresher next year. This year, the department did a training on "emotional intelligence" in policing, Lalley said.
Lalley and the command staff meet every month or two with clergy, and the group has been reading the book "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo, she said. "When you sit in a room with people and you talk about really hard topics, that's how trust is built."
Lalley also said she wants to add more mental health workers to the department's collaborative crisis services unit and expand the emergency services detail, which responds in teams of two, rather than a full SWAT team, to calls about armed and violent individuals. Both were implemented after the March 2018 fatal police shooting of resident Decynthia Clements.
Modern policing is all about slowing things down rather than intervening quickly and risking escalation, Lalley said. "Communicating and using tactics: You combine those two, and on top of it, you use some critical thinking -- that's when you can resolve things peacefully."
Elgin police have used body cameras for three years and squad car cameras for more than 17 years. The department is working on implementing an "early warning system" after the purchase of Benchmark Analytics software last year, Lalley said.
The department also has been doing "a deep dive" into its policies and plans to seek accreditation from the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program, she said.
Lalley said she regularly meets with the police citizen advisory committee, which serves as a "sounding board." The department has held numerous community meetings on topics including use of force and offers citizens police academies including for seniors, youths and in Spanish.
"I want to stress this didn't just start a week or two ago," she said. "This is work that has been going on for many years."