Elgin task force to study idea of police review board made up of residents
Elgin's Community Task Force on Policing will investigate the possible formation of a citizens police review board that could give the public a binding say on police discipline for the first time.
That new direction came about as the 18-member task force took up the topic of police accountability at its meeting this week. Members learned the idea of giving residents a say in what happens to officers accused of misconduct has been discussed behind the scenes for at least the last four years.
A group of faith-based leaders and community members have met with Police Chief Ana Lalley off and on, and city council members Tish Powell and Corey Dixon already have laid some groundwork for creating a review board.
Officials will share that information with the task force. A subcommittee may take on a deeper examination of the potential for a citizens review board while the larger task force continues exploring other ways to improve the relationship between the police department and ethnic and racial minority groups in the city.
Task force member Marcus Banner said the city has made big strides toward reform under Lalley's leadership. But Banner said there is a long history of not holding officers accountable and efforts to make it harder to scrutinize officer conduct that is hard for residents to forget.
Banner cited two examples.
He said some residents would record police scanner traffic to keep a record of officer conversations when they were out on patrol. Once police discovered that monitoring, they moved to encrypt police radios.
"They'd be out on the prowl in black and brown neighborhoods to see if you were going to jaywalk or spit on the ground, so it gave them an excuse to engage with you and see if they could find some greater arrest," Banner said. "Now we can't hear anything anymore. The (police) culture is, 'Hold everyone accountable except us.'"
Banner also recounted the events that led to the resignation of former Elgin police officer Christopher Darr in 2008.
Darr was charged with two felony counts of aggravated battery and placed on paid leave after being accused of beating a handcuffed suspect in the back of a police vehicle. Darr was convicted of misdemeanor battery. He received two years of probation and resigned from the police department.
The city also paid out $225,000 in a lawsuit from the man who was beaten.
Task force members said officers should also be accountable for their off-duty activities and overall level of professionalism.
That could include training to recognize and address implicit biases that cause people to view and treat others differently based on superficial visible attributes.
The task force will meet again on Nov. 4.