Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has been reinvigorated. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by police, and the countless extrajudicial murders of Black people that continue to happen have centered the discussion on the idea of defunding the police. It is the most pivotal and consequential policy issue to potentially affect change in our communities.
For some, the phrase “defunding the police” is something of a misnomer; there are those who believe in a comprehensive reconstruction of how we budget for and employ our law enforcement officers, but that cities and towns keep the forces in place. Others truly want police stations boarded up, for the people to better define what policing is, and completely start from scratch. There are plenty of calls to further submit funding to grow the scope of what they offer the community.
Regardless of where one stands on this issue, it will be discussed from now until there are effective changes made to fix a problem that is very obviously not going away, but rather, getting worse.
At Smile Politely, we believe that a significant amount of the funding taxpayers provide for law enforcement agencies should be diverted to social services. We do not believe that asking our uniformed, armed police officers and deputies to manage the myriad tasks they currently handle is healthy or advantageous to our communities.
The scope of what that can look like is something that requires discussion, but we do believe that changes should come swiftly. We argue that the first thing that should happen is a freeze on all budgets for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, while the presiding boards and councils have a chance to work with their staff and departments to implement a new structure within the next year.
To that end, it should be known that these decisions very much hinge upon our elected officials, and the work they do with city and county staff to define these budgets and the scope of services. We reached out to every Urbana and Champaign councilperson, every County Board member, as well as Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen, Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin, Champaign City Manager Dorothy David, Urbana City Administrator Carol Mitten, and County Executive Darlene Kloeppel to ask this question:
Do you believe that funding for law enforcement agencies should be reduced and diverted to other resources? If the answer is yes, what should that budget cut fund instead? If the answer is no, why not? If the answer is undecided, please qualify that in a way that justifies it.
Of the 42 elected and appointed officials we asked, 20 responded to our query. We asked the question initially last Monday June 8th, with a deadline of noon on Thursday, June 11th. By Wednesday, June 10th, a couple people had asked for an extension, so we agreed as an editorial board to grant them that, and offered the same to everyone else, even for those who had submitted their answers already. We gave them a new deadline of Monday, June 15th at 5 p.m.
We received responses from:
8 of the 10 people from the City of Champaign
6 of the 9 people from the City of Urbana
6 of the 23 people from Champaign County
No elected or appointed Republicans responded at all (Elected officials in Champaign do not have an official political party affiliation.)
Responses from our elected officials are below.
Image by Smile Politely.
CITY OF CHAMPAIGN
Mayor Deb Feinen: UNDECIDED
The City Council will be approving our budget June 16th but because of the economic impact of COVID-19 on our revenues, we will be making further budget decisions this fall. Council and the community will need to work together to prioritize funding for community needs and maintaining essential City services. Our process will be to have a study session, which will include public and staff input on funding priorities and then Council will make these important and difficult decisions. Given the uncertainty of our revenue it is appropriate to remain open minded to needs and solutions as we begin that mid-year budget review. Before making any decisions, I need the benefit of listening to the community, my fellow Council Members, and the opportunity to hear from our City staff, our Chief, and the officers.
City Manager Dorothy David: N/A
In my role as City Manager, it is my responsibility to prepare a proposed budget for the City Council that meets City financial policies and funds City services at Council’s direction. The question you pose about law enforcement funding is a policy question that is best addressed by the Champaign City Council. It is my responsibility to implement their policy direction, and they ultimately have the final decision about the budget and services that the City provides for our community.
The proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1st is scheduled for Council consideration on the June 16th Regular Meeting agenda. As a result of the impact of COVID-19 on our economy, Council has directed staff to begin evaluating budget reductions and service options for their consideration in the fall, with the goal to adopt an amended budget before the end of this calendar year. While it is necessary for the City Council to take additional actions to maintain a balanced budget going forward, they are also very aware of the need to invest in services to address community needs. The process that the City will use to consider changes to service levels and the budget will include opportunities for public input and engagement, because these decisions impact the people who live and work in our City. More details about public input opportunities will be announced at a later date. All City Council budget discussions will be held during open, televised meetings that allow for public comment.
- Clarissa Fourman: DID NOT RESPOND
- Alicia Beck: YES
A deep and complete overhaul of policing and the culture of law enforcement must occur nationally. It’s time to imagine something different and make it happen in Champaign. As a city council member, I am committed to listening to our Black community and to hear their collective vision for a just and equitable system. I support the inclusion of the NAACP’s policy and procedure demands, and will work to include these into those followed by the Champaign Police Department.
Policies and procedures are important, but it is imperative that we also address the social trauma that presents during many calls for assistance. Our reliance on law enforcement to solve problems for which it is ill prepared sets up a dynamic that inflates police confidence in their competence and does little to mitigate the social issues that they intend to address. Because of this, beginning in my candidacy and continuing on after my election, I’ve advocated for the inclusion of forensic social workers and crisis mental health professionals as an important part of the City’s response to emergency calls. These highly trained, licensed professionals can provide a better avenue to resolution and can ultimately reduce or eliminate the involvement of patrol officers. With years of training in their subject of expertise instead of the hours that police complete in a workshop on the same subject, these professionals are better equipped to address the mental health and social issues with which law enforcement officers often find themselves confronted. This also includes the replacement of uniformed and armed police officers in schools.
Additionally, I continue to advocate for the inclusion of two important budgetary items for the City of Champaign: the funding of a year-round shelter for homeless individuals, and the inclusion of a youth and family empowerment initiative with Unit 4 to provide wrap-around programs for K-12 students. All of these changes, which are being demanded by the citizens of our community, along with a broad discussion of a reimagined police department, will mean the restructuring of the budget for the police.
- Angie Brix: UNDECIDED
The world we are living in today versus the world we were in just a few short months ago has drastically changed. Looking at where the City was financially prior to COVID-19 and the significant budget reduction discussions we will have over the next few months is disheartening. And, the conversations we must have to better understand the realities of residents in our community and to figure out how to responsibly address not only work with law enforcement. but poverty, neighborhoods, economic development, etc., will be challenging, critical, and necessary.
Your questions around defunding police are complicated because I don’t think we are far enough into this process to understand exactly what that means. If it means, for example, abolishing the police department with the gun violence we are seeing in our community at this time, I cannot comprehend how this would be good for overall public safety. If it means potentially restructuring to allow our police officers to operate within their areas of expertise and their strengths while allowing other qualified agencies to take on issues with mental health and provide support to the police for non-emergency related cases, this is something I could consider.
Now is the time to listen to all perspectives and to be open to new ideas as we move forward.
- Greg Stock: UNDECIDED
I don’t think there is any right answer to those questions, at least not at this point. I think that we need to [be] very deliberate in our decisions and our planning and really look at how any choices we make impact the community. As teachers, we typically are huge fans of taking ideas from other places and adapting them to fit what works best for our needs. We need to be looking at other places and programs and finding things that might work in our community with some customizing as well as coming up with our ideas. Our dialogue is obviously going to be taking place in the midst of a truly national dialogue about what policing looks like vs. what we think it should look like.
As a by-product of COVID-related budget shortfalls, we as a city are going to have to take a hard look at how we are spending and what we can cut to better reflect our community needs. Bearing that in mind, this is a good time to have a dialogue about what city services we can provide, want to provide, and, perhaps more importantly for this particular topic, how we provide them.
I don’t really mean for that to be as non-committal as it sounds, but I just don’t think it would be responsive to have already reached my conclusions without actually having had true dialogue with others.
- Vanna Pianfetti: UNDECIDED
The past few weeks have been a complicated and complex time for us all. We are challenged by our own sense of duty and responsibility — by our reactions to what we see, feel, and understand. The question you pose is no less complex. As the City Council representative of District 5, my beliefs are, in part, informed by conversations I just started on this topic with the residents of my district and the broader community. More importantly, as I am listening and learning about the intricacy of this issue, I understand that part of my role in making informed decisions is also making sure I am having conversations with leaders from such agencies as the NAACP, the school district, law enforcement, and city staff. It is also my nature to consider how decisions I make now could impact future safety, security, and prosperity. Further, I am acutely aware of how COVID-19 has impacted our budget, resulting in our need for a tiered approach to passing the budget. First and foremost, I want to make sure that I fully understand what is needed and what is being affected if we consider reallocating funds from one area to another. Some questions that must be asked are: What would be lost? What would be gained? What are the potential long-term unintended consequences of these changes? I know that I have always been supportive of the youth and family empowerment program (now LIFT) in partnership with Unit 4, so I would be supportive of looking for ways to bring that back to the table in some capacity. I look forward to more conversations with the community.
- Tom Bruno: UNDECIDED
We need to reexamine all police issues. This includes, but is not limited to, funding, training, and what range of services we ask the local police department to provide. That examination may result in increased funding for some areas, like training and provision of front-line mental health care, and reduction in spending on other areas, such as specialized response units, like SWAT teams, drug-sniffing dogs, and bomb squads.
Whether the net amount of money spent on police increases or decreases will depend on our community’s choices on how we define “Police Department” and how we tinker with the aforementioned spending choices.
Thoughtful public input is critical to arriving at a community consensus. For public input to be truly helpful we need to do a better job at sharing with the public the constraints under which the City operates with respect to our police force. Among other things we operate under a collective bargaining agreement that defines rights and responsibilities of the parties and which we cannot and will not simply breach.
Police officers have a broad range of rights bestowed upon them by the laws of the State of Illinois. These rights impact their power to use force to do their job and to maintain their employment status, even while accusations of misconduct are pending. It is helpful to these conversations if everyone familiarizes themselves with these factors. Examining the public policy decisions that went into this matrix of rights and responsibilities needs to be a regular civic exercise and I hope our state Senators and Representatives join this conversation and weigh in on what modifications, if any, they think are merited.
In the meantime, I hope the citizens of Champaign continue to peaceably assemble to redress their grievances and to assist our community in making the correct policy choices for Champaign.
- Matthew Gladney: UNDECIDED
As of now, our police department is already stretched pretty thin. That said, we need to work on systemic issues within policing. A lot of what needs to happen will take some re-examining of what we’ve come to think of as the norm, because a lot of the norm hasn’t been working. Some changes have already been underway, however. Our police should continue implicit bias training, and the community policing initiatives promoted under Chief Cobb’s leadership. Champaign has made some improvements, but we can do better.
I am supportive of wraparound services that provide substantive assistance to at-risk youth and their families, social service programs, and economic development programs that are supportive of, and empowering for, African-American and minority communities. I believe that an empathetic and holistic approach to the issues facing our community is the best way forward. There will have to be some difficult conversations, but they are necessary. And the people of Champaign will have a voice in this process. I look forward to our upcoming study sessions that will no doubt see discussions of these issues. We all have work to do.
- Will Kyles: DID NOT RESPOND
CITY OF URBANA
Mayor Diane Marlin (D): UNDECIDED
For many years in this country, we have chosen to expand the role of policing rather than providing equitable access to healthcare, education, housing, income, and opportunity. I believe reliance on law enforcement agencies to shoulder that social burden should be reduced, and that role should be assumed by other systems that will meet the needs of the people.
We can gradually transition to a new model and make sure we have systems in place. In the meantime, we can review the calls for service received by the Urbana Police Department each year, and consider alternative ways to answer them. For example, we could contract with social workers and mental health professionals, or call on the faith-based community or neighborhood teams to help respond to certain calls for service. When Urbana police are asked to do a “wellness check” for an elderly family member or friend, we currently send a patrol officer or a detective. That’s a role another person could take on, with backup from police or emergency medical services, if necessary. Many calls for service are for people experiencing a mental health crisis. Our officers have crisis intervention training, but health professionals could take the lead in the response, with police in a back-up role focused on ensuring safety of those involved.
Today, the national focus is on the role of patrol officers on the street. The City currently has 47 patrol officers. When examining local law enforcement agency budgets, you’ll see many other activities. For example, the police department’s proposed budget includes a staff analyst who was awarded a grant to conduct community policing research at the University of Illinois. We pay for animal control measures, expungement of juvenile and cannabis-related criminal records, and provide fingerprinting services. There are service desk representatives who help walk-in members of the public and take non-emergency phone calls from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Addition of body worn cameras means staff are needed to process and store the data. These are in addition to the sworn patrol officers, detectives, and leadership staff who cover shifts 24/7. Budgets also include vehicles, equipment, and training. And like all departments, the budget includes pension costs.
The City is facing an estimated $3 million shortfall in revenue due to COVID-19. Like other cities, we will need to take stock of where we stand a few months from now and make budget adjustments. We will be listening to the community for input on those decisions.
At the local level, we can start now by systematically examining the types of calls our police respond to, and ask ourselves what can be done differently and by whom? As we identify alternative approaches, funding can shift, and law enforcement can gradually return to the core duty of ensuring public safety. This approach needs to be a collaborative effort that includes neighboring cities, institutions, schools, hospitals, the faith-based community and social service sector and members of the public.
City Administrator Carol Mitten: DID NOT RESPOND
- Maryalice Wu (D): UNDECIDED
I don’t see the question as one of ‘defunding the police’; I see it as more a matter of examining what the public safety needs of the community are, the type of professional best suited to handle those needs, and exploring how the city can best meet those needs. It may be that reallocating city resources provides for a more efficient, cost-effective, and community-engaged response to public safety concerns. Ultimately the city is here to serve the needs of the community and direct resources accordingly. I look forward to exploring that possibility with my council colleagues in the weeks and months to come.
- Eric Jakobbson (D): DID NOT RESPOND
- Shirese Hursey (D): UNDECIDED
The answer I have is I don’t know. If funds are reduced, what department could afford to take the cut? If a law enforcement budget is excessive, I would say yes funds could be diverted or rolled into a position to serve the mentally ill. Since the mental health system was dismantled in the 80s, cities across the country have struggled to house and mediate the different conditions that mentally ill people face on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, the justice system became the new mental health institution, with budget cuts to the social services within and without.
- Bill Brown (D): YES
I believe we can reduce funding to police by re-imagining the role of police and increasing support to alternative first responders in addressing public safety issues. Urbana receives about 26,000 calls for police through 911 every year. We need a way to identify which of those calls can be addressed by others. Do we really need to send a squad to a big-box store every time they catch [someone] shoplifting? It seems that many “welfare check” calls could also be handled by civilian crisis intervention specialists, with direct communication to police for backup if needed. Urbana was a leader in promoting the 40-hour crisis intervention training for officers and that needs to continue, but that clearly isn’t enough. We should work with the UI Police Training Institute with the assistance of mental health professionals to develop more and better procedures for de-escalating high-stress situations and taking people into custody when necessary, and provide ongoing support and training in those practices. We should also ask them to produce a strategy for demilitarizing the equipment and tactics used by police. There are civilian resources already being used to assist police and I believe something similar could be utilized to begin a more effective behavioral response team if they are willing, but it will involve cooperation across jurisdictions and a clear strategy of how to deploy the resources.
- Dennis P. Roberts (D): YES
The timing is appropriate, as the City is about to receive a draft budget for the coming fiscal year from the mayor. Our financial review will come during the extended Council meeting Wednesday evening. We received so much public input (I personally received at least 91 emails) on questions related to the staff reappointments proposed by the Mayor and on changes to local police protocol and policy, that the city’s budget presentation was delayed for two days.
By far the greatest expense in the City Budget is our employees, which includes police, fire, and city staff within many departments. This constitutes about 80% of our total expenses, and these do not change even while city income is likely to diminish drastically due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the closing of so many businesses across the board.
The City sets aside funds to provide for social services each year. These funds are dispersed to established non-profit organizations doing significant work in the community through our dual role as Trustees of Cunningham Township (the Township Supervisor’s office disperses this funding). Do I think there will be a reallocation of funding this year from the police department to new social services? For Fiscal year 2020-2021 I expect only a moderate reallocation. I expect all city departments will undergo funding reductions, and certainly this will include the police department.
The main issue about funding a new program for the social changes contemplated by the community is deciding where this funding ought to be spent. I believe it will take five to six months of public engagement to determine the shape of a transformed police department and a plan for creating new agencies to serve the community. A review of the social service goals of our community will be necessary, and we will be seeing new changes proposed at the national and state level relating to transforming community policing practices. We will need to evaluate these before we can actually craft a new funding direction for Urbana.
It is significant that in today’s issue of The News-Gazette (Tuesday, June 9th, 2020), in the aftermath of community protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, that there is a large article about the Democratic leadership in Congress proposing a far-reaching police reform measure that is directly in line with our goals here in Urbana; namely: a ban on the use of choke holds and excessive force policies, establishing national standards of oversight, creating a national officer misconduct database, and stopping military type weapons and equipment being made available to local police departments. There may be federal funding available if this is passed to achieve these goals, released to states and municipalities like our own. This could offset the lower fund balance we expect to deal with locally.
I personally look forward to this process of change, which could change the community’s perception of a “militarized” police presence, and transform it into one of trust and improved community service.
- William P. Colbrook (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- Jared T. Miller (D): YES
Yes, I absolutely believe that funding for law enforcement agencies should be reduced and diverted to other resources. We are being called by our community to wholly transform how our community responds to calls for help.
One of the ideas I am most excited about today is thinking about how funds reallocated from the police could be used to support an alternative community organization (yet unformed) that would become the new first responders to the vast majority of calls for service (non-fire or EMS related). Such an organization would be supported by local law enforcement agencies in instances where the threat of harm to health and life has become imminent and all other options available have been exhausted.
Today, I am most concerned with beginning discussions about what such an organization could/would/should look like and how we as a community might go about forming such an organization. These discussions should incorporate community-wide input, input from local BIPOC organizations and activist groups, and stakeholders from all critical agencies that would need to be involved in the formation of such an organization.
This is just one idea and one possible avenue of a redirection of public safety funds.
There are many other opportunities including investing in community organizations that deal with the larger issues surrounding mental health treatment and drug addiction that go beyond responding to immediate calls for help.
Funds could be used to invest in interventionist and interrupter groups that can directly confront and prevent gun violence, or in after-school, education, and job-skills programs focusing on lifting up those in our community who have been at the forefront of the violence of systemic inequality, poverty, and racism for generations and generations.
Our law enforcement agencies have been asked to do too much and they are improperly trained and improperly equipped to handle so many of the calls for service that have stemmed from divestment in social programs over the last 50 years.
We must take whatever time and resources are necessary to rethink our approach to public safety and take immediate action to rebuild the trust that our community has lost in it’s leaders, it’s law enforcement agencies, and local governments.
COUNTY BOARD + COUNTY EXECUTIVE
County Executive Darlene Kloeppel (D): UNDECIDED
Best scenario is one simple law: Treat others the way that you want to be treated. Because it is evidently human nature to find ways around this, we now have thousands of laws about how to get along together and a need for law enforcement to hold people accountable. And even need accountability for the law enforcers. The county’s two largest budget categories are the justice system and services for low-income and vulnerable residents of the county. Yet we join the rest of the nation in acknowledging we still have deficiencies to work on, such as systemic racism. Reductions in law enforcement funding will not change the ways we treat each other, but could certainly be a desired outcome if we improve the ways we treat each other. We must get better at implementing strategies that actually move the needle in the direction of healthier relationships.
- Jodi Eisenmann (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- Jim Goss (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- John Clifford (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- Jodi Wolken (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- Aaron Esry (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- Stanley C. Harper (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- Bradley Clemmons (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- Jim McGuire (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- Jon Rector (R): DID NOT RESPOND
- Leah Taylor (D): DID NOT RESPOND
- Mike Ingram (D): YES
The last two weeks haven’t just shown unaware Americans that Black lives are constantly under siege from the very people who are paid to protect them, but also that the more you militarize your departments the more you place all citizens in danger of overreach and violence. There are multiple running tallies of blatant and often brutal uses of force all across the country, largely unprovoked. It points to a very flawed but widely used approach. Studies by groups like the Marshall Project definitively show that even just the act of showing up in riot gear to a peaceful protest increases the chance of the protest becoming less peaceful. Deescalation is shown overwhelmingly to keep people (protesters and police) safer, and yet that is largely not what we’re seeing.
Even people who seek police jobs out of a true sense of community service end up within systems designed to make them cold. You would have to hope that if you could rebuild a better department that those civic-minded officers would jump at the opportunity to join.
Police departments that have social workers and mental health professionals within the precinct see incredible results. Morphing staff budgets to include more people who can attack the roots of problems is a great step. We can take even the same amount of money but spend it on staffing and training that’s proven to actually reduce bad outcomes. You can attack the same problems from much more effective ways, and you can use some of the same people to do it.
Funding departments that cannot fix internal problems and continue to terrorize, brutalize, and sometimes kill Black Americans doesn’t make a lot of sense to me; and right now we’re seeing that a whole [lot of] departments have that issue. Funding departments that can radically change their approach and their staffing in a way that makes “protect and serve” not seem like sarcasm? Let’s see what that looks like.
- Charles Young (D): DID NOT RESPOND
- Kyle Patterson (D): DID NOT RESPOND
- Eric Thorsland (D): YES
My single word answer to defunding the police is yes. And as any reasonable person knows this does not result in no policing. We foolishly defund almost everything government oversees with relentless abandon so it is not unusual to consider reducing funding aspects of law enforcement. It is time to fundamentally change the balance and move resources for better outcomes.
We need to demilitarize, de-scope, decentralize, and defund police and law enforcement. On the county level where I serve the effort is different than the effort in the urban and city law enforcement areas but the same broad changes apply. We can systematically move funds from law enforcement to areas where they can better benefit citizens and law enforcement.
Demilitarize the police. Police are not at war with the citizenry, period. The assault gear, vehicles and training programs that exist for the sole purpose of training law enforcement like an invading force need to be zeroed out. The presence in a community of a battle prepared force does nothing to reduce crime rates or increase police and community relations.
De-scope the police. We have heaped upon law enforcement every task imaginable that may be remotely related to keeping property whole and to provide a perception of peace, all to the detriment of the citizens and the police. No officer would argue against the statement they are asked to do too much. It is time to direct the funding resource to people who are better equipped for mental health issues, poverty issues, substance dependence, and all the tasks unrelated to basic law enforcement. Get officers out of schools, this is in now aspect a useful application of officers who could be engaged in actual law enforcement and not school patrol.
Decentralize the police. Return to a model that puts the police and the people they serve back in contact with each other. Endless shift rotation, vehicle patrols behind the glass, anonymizing your police force does not connect the community and has not led to reductions of crime. There are multiple policing examples with positive results when beat cops returned to neighborhood patrol and positive police to citizen contact was initiated and has had substantial effects on crime reduction.
Defund the police. This is not radical thought or a return to anarchy in the community. Moving funds normally spent on police and the effort to have the police handle far too many tasks is not bad policy. Limiting the role of police by returning forces back to basic law enforcement and funding community programs that address mental well-being, poverty, homelessness, substance dependence and community resources is not disbanding the police, it is building the community.
- Stephanie Fortado (D): DID NOT RESPOND
- Giraldo Rosales (D): DID NOT RESPOND
- Cynthia Fears (D): DID NOT RESPOND
- Steve Summers (D): YES
While the underlying question here is of allocation (or reallocation) of resources, our County’s current financial issues have been heavily impacted by the decisions and philosophy of past republican-led CBs. That’s a different question to be addressed.
The events of the last few weeks have starkly shown that we all need to affirm that Black lives matter. Our community needs to listen to young people, and work to demilitarize law enforcement and move toward a community policing model.
There are certainly law enforcement agencies that are over funded (particularly in major metropolitan areas). Each governmental entity’s budget is different, and needs to be individually scrutinized. As to how funding should be diverted, that will depend on the most pressing human service needs in the specific entity. Champaign County is currently in the middle of our 2021 budget process. I will commit to review the County Sheriff’s budget.
In our county, we are fortunate to have the first Democratic Sheriff in many decades. Sheriff Heuerman has worked to address issues of law enforcement dealing with individuals with mental health issues, supported pretrial diversion programs, and reducing overall incarceration. He will be meeting with the Champaign County Community Coalition this week to review the County’s policing strategies.
- Connie Dillard-Myers (D): NO
No. Overall, I believe the police systems in America are protecting and serving some, but not all of the people. I do not believe we need to defund the police, but start training them to serve and protect all the people, regardless of what they look like. The police/judicial system is part of the systemic and institutionalized racism that persists in America; we are bound to hire a few bad cops, vote in a few bad politicians, and seat some bad judges.
I have lived and worked in Urbana-Champaign for over 45 years now, and what I’ve seen is a heavy-handed judicial system, from the state’s attorney’s office to the predominantly Republican bench, that wants to ruin the lives of any Black person that comes before them. As well, we have untrained and some racist cops who want to body slam and fist beat Black women in the streets. All White people need to ask themselves these questions: What if it was your mother, sister, or daughter that was being misused and abused by the police? What if it was your father, brother, or son being falsely accused of crimes and beaten into a confession? These acts of violence against Black people in America have gone on since slavery. It continues as we have seen increasing numbers of Black people being killed by police and by racists radicals who go out hunting down and killing unarmed Black men and women.
We are disrespected for just being Black in America when we should be celebrated because America was built on the backs of slaves. Free labor. We never got our reparation for building America; instead, we got Jim Crow. As an American from African descent, history has shown that we have always been at the butt end of the tricks “racist” used to deny us our civil liberties in our pursuit of the American Dream. Long lines to vote on Super Tuesday (6/9/2020) in Black communities in Georgia is yet another example of being denied.
As Black Americans we cannot hide our color; we did not choose it, rather it is God-given. But know that I am proud to be Black, love my culture and heritage, and I would not trade it for the world. I find it hard now-a-day to be proud to be an American with the rest of the world watching the escalation of racism in America; in my opinion largely instigated by the current administration.
- Chris Stohr (D): YES
Communities will continue to need a fair and just legal system; culturally sensitive, community-based law enforcement; and social services to protect citizens from violence, predatory forces and organizations, and to aid those in distress. This is a time for leadership of law enforcement, courts, social service agencies, and public organizations to meet and reorganize the criminal justice system in Champaign County, and recommend changes to state and federal laws and judicial systems.
Mental and behavioral health hygiene, and continuing education, including cultural and linguistic competency, should be part of an integrated social work/law enforcement effort that strengthens families and individuals when they are vulnerable, scarred by violence or incarceration, suffering a loss of income, finding themselves homeless or unemployed, or suffering illness [PTSD, substance abuse, mental or physical trauma], or a natural disaster.
Sustainable community support should be dependable and consistent not depending upon annual fundraising by charities to provide housing; preventive, wellness and emergency medical care; and necessities. We should recognize that short term ‘fixes’ will not resolve longstanding, complex, deeply-rooted problems, and be resolute as we collectively undertake this work.
- Lorraine Cowart (D): DID NOT RESPOND
- James B. Tinsley (D): DID NOT RESPOND
The Editorial Board is Seth Fein, Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer.
Top image by Anna Longworth.