Elgin chief presents initiatives for police improvement, while council wants task force

The Elgin City Council plans to form a task force that includes residents to examine areas of improvement for the police department, which launched an online community survey and wants to establish eight resident-led community advisory boards to discuss policing issues.

Police Chief Ana Lalley said she is OK with the task force but also said the department already has been proactive about change and has shown a commitment to responding to the community's desire to be heard. Policing has been the focus of several protests this month in Elgin.

Other upcoming initiatives, Lalley said, are a "21-day racial equity challenge" that police officers and the community would take part in.

The challenge was created by Eddie Moore Jr. of the nonprofit The Privilege Institute. It involves taking one action daily "to further your understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity" and comes with suggestions for readings, podcasts, videos and more.

The department also wants to add more members to its youth advisory council and plans to hold a community event in August centered on the issues outlined in the book "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo, which police command staff members have been reading, Lalley said.

The department will start posting monthly use-of-force data on its website, she added.

One pending issue is whether Elgin will create a civilian police review board and what kind of authority it would have. Conversations about this started after the police killing of resident Decynthia Clements in 2018 and will take longer, possibly up to a year, because the issue is complex and involves the police union, Lalley and council members agreed.

Councilman Corey Dixon said he likes the idea of having eight community advisory groups that would meet in their own neighborhoods - maybe in someone's home - and set their own agendas. Two police officers, including a supervisor, would be present mainly to listen and answer questions. The police department for many years has had a citizen advisory committee that meets at the police station.

Council members voted Wednesday to make some changes regarding police procedures: requiring more police officers to live in town, hiring an outside firm to investigate serious allegations of police misconduct, and adding two residents to the board of police and fire commissioners.

The task force is needed to continue that examination in a more comprehensive manner, Dixon said. "When we talk about addressing policy or culture, that takes a group effort."

At one point, there was an unusually vehement exchange between Lalley and Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger, who said Elgin can "re-imagine" its police department, as other cities across the nation are doing, and examine ideas like having fewer police officers and more social workers.

"Find a police department that's reading 'White Fragility' and who's going to host a conversation with their community about it," Lalley replied. "This is a great police department with great officers who are forward-thinking. We've shown that time and time again. If no one's going to say it, I'm going to say it."

"I agree," Rauschenberger said. "But this is (an issue of) 'before George Floyd' and 'after George Floyd.' I think it's a moment in history when everybody around the world is re-looking at policing."

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