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Police-Community Relations Committee Focused on Building Trust, Expanding Outreach in 2021

After a year that saw nationwide protests condemning police brutality, the Peoria Advisory Committee on Police-Community Relations is hoping to use 2021 to continue building trust in local law enforcement.The committee held a virtual town hall Thursday night to hear public comments about the year ahead, and the overarching message was clear: the community must come together to tackle crime in Peoria.

“The fist is stronger than the finger,” said committee chairman Andre W. Allen. “We are one community, one Peoria, and we have to unite to address these issues.”

The virtual meeting format is new to the committee that wants the public to know that questions and concerns relating to law enforcement remain a priority, even if members and the public are unable to meet in person. In years past, events have been held in ZIP codes with higher crime rates to make solutions accessible for those with the most immediate need.

Robert Johnson, president of the Peoria Park District Board of Trustees, attended the meeting and voiced concerns regarding events being held at the Peoria Riverfront after a shooting injured 13 in July 2020.

“I just don’t want our city to start losing some of our amenities that we’ve had over the years,” said Johnson.

Also discussed at the meeting was the Dec. 26 brawl at Northwoods Mall involving about 30 youths.

Attendees commended the Peoria Police Department for its handling of that situation, and Peoria Public Schools Police Chief Demario Boone emphasized the importance of the committee’s outreach in preventing instances like that from happening in the future.

“There are back stories to (those events),” said Boone. “There are kids that are acting out. Their father was just killed, don’t have any food in the house, living in constant poverty, dealing with constant trauma. We, as officers, need to understand that.”

Since the committee’s inception, it has received almost no formal complaints.

Moving forward, committee member Lorene King wants to make sure that general skepticism of law enforcement is not getting in the way of residents voicing their concerns.

“The primary issue that exists is distrust,” said King. “Many occasions I’ve tried to get people to utilize the system for complaints, and they hesitate because they say they are afraid of retribution, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

The next town hall meeting will be held Feb. 4 via Zoom.

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