'Cacerolazo' protest held in front of Elgin city hall
In a sight -- and sound -- new to Elgin, protesters banged on pots and pans as part of an effort, quite literally, to be heard.
"We are here mainly because we need police reform," said Sandra "Sandy" Davila, a member of the group "Elgin in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter" who wore a bright yellow face covering while banging on a pan with a wooden spoon.
The group organized a "cacerolazo," the Spanish term for such a protest, in front of city hall before and during the city council meeting Wednesday. About 40 people showed up.
Inside, council members voted to require more police officers to live in town, hire an outside firm to investigate serious allegations of police misconduct and add two residents to the board of police and fire commissioners.
The activists' group has crafted a list of six demands to the city related to policing.
They include: diverting funds from the police department to mental health, housing and other social services; forcing the resignation of Lt. Chris Jensen, who fatally shot resident Decynthia Clements in 2018; forming a citizens body that would oversee police internal investigations, discipline, hiring and contracts; removing police from U-46 schools; adding clear body camera procedures and strict enforcement; and allowing listening to police radio communications that currently are encrypted.
"The argument is not whether there is racism in our city or not," resident Heidi Cruz said. "We are telling you it exists in our police force."
Resident Marcus Bradley said residents are demanding change. "If I can't sit there and tell 100 of my community members to trust in all of you, then what do we need you for?" he said. "At the end of the day we count on you to leave a great legacy here, within our city."
The council voted so that the board of police and fire commissioners, which handles the hiring process for police and fire, will have five civilians -- including two women and two minorities --. plus the police chief and fire chief. Councilman Terry Gavin voted "no."
The council approved hiring an outside firm to investigate serious allegations -- use of force, breach of civil rights, discrimination, incidents involving serious injury or death and more -- against sworn police officers and other police employees. That's typically two to three cases per year, Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley said.
The council also approved requiring police commanders and lieutenants hired or promoted July 1 or after to live in Elgin, with a grace period of up to 24 months including an OK from the city manager. Councilmembers Gavin, Toby Shaw and Rose Martinez voted "no."
Residency is already required for the police chief and deputy chief. A residency requirement for new rank-and-file officers is subject to pending union negotiations.
Sergeants are attempting to unionize, so residency requirement for them was not discussed.
"They're are currently trying to unionize, so we were advised by corporate council that including them while they are trying to unionize would violate their rights," Councilman Corey Dixon said.
• Staff photographer John Starks contributed to this report.