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Bloomington Council OKs Buying New Guns For Police

Bloomington City Council meets virtually Monday, June 14, 2021.
Bloomington City Council meets virtually Monday, June 14, 2021.

The Bloomington City Council on Monday approved a police request to buy 140 new handguns, which police leaders say allows the department to switch to a smaller 9mm model, and have enough weapons to issue city-owned guns to all officers.

The 7-2 vote OKs spending about $81,500 for the set of Sig Sauer P320 pro handguns from Indiana-based Acme Sports, Inc. They replace a similar gun used in the department since 2013 that used 40 caliber ammunition. According to Interim Police Chief Gregory Scott, the 8-year-old weapons are beginning to show malfunctions related to wear-and-tear during training exercises.

Ward 6’s Jenn Carrillo and Ward 7’s Mollie Ward voted against the purchase.

Currently, some Bloomington officers own their on-duty weapon. However, the council’s approval of the Acme purchase means BPD now will have enough handguns to create a policy requiring department-issued duty weapons — instead of the option of using an officer-owned gun.

During a phone call to the meeting, Scott said the department used the Indiana supplier because of its ability to handle a large gun order with expediency. The department already has purchased 110,000 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, and wants officers to take part in required qualifications this fall.

“No officer is allowed to carry a new weapon without having first qualified,” said Scott.

Scott noted firearms and ammunition are in short supply across the nation this year. The council also approved two other public safety purchases with Motorola Solutions Inc.:

  • About $288,000 for the Bloomington Fire Department to purchase 35 new specialized radios, and upgrade some of its current radios.
  • Nearly $316,000, for a service agreement to maintain console radio equipment used by the city, including the police and fire departments.

Open Meetings Act violation

Also on Monday, the council met in closed session for about 10 minutes, citing a semi-annual review of closed session minutes.

In May, City Manager Tim Gleason said the city would not further challenge an Illinois appeals court ruling that the city violated the state’s Open Meetings Act in a closed-door meeting in February 2017.

When the council returned from its closed session, Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe said the council will bring forward a resolution on the closed minutes at a future meeting.

But he said, related to Monday's report, the council determined the city’s closed session minutes should remain confidential — except for portions of minutes and verbatim recordings of closed sessions focused on the former Metro Zone from four dates: Oct. 24 and Nov. 14, 2016; and Feb. 13 and 20, 2017.

The Metro Zone, a west-side tax-sharing deal, had existed between Bloomington and Normal for decades. However, Bloomington ended the agreement one week after the Feb. 20, 2017 closed meeting, which it had called to discuss pending or probable litigation. But the appeals court found little discussion of a lawsuit.

City to update ADA plan, Rust Fund

The council also voted overwhelmingly to move forward with two proposals from council member Ward related to accessibility issues for people with disabilities.

The first vote was unanimous and calls for Bloomington to update its accessibility transition plan, which is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plan hasn’t been addressed since 2015, she said. Monday’s vote calls for city staff to seek input directly from residents who have disabilities, and research how federal COVID-relief funds might be incorporated into the plan.

It also directs city leaders to first complete a study on the matter, then present a draft of the plan before the end of 2021. Ward said the plan should have specific deadlines for implementation.

“It can’t just be an open-ended kind of thing,” she said.

Council member Tom Crumpler of Ward 9 said he’s read the 2015 plan. “What we need is a catalyst to move this forward,” he said, adding Ward’s efforts are that momentum.

Ward also proposed city staff research and develop a Rust Fund resolution. That passed with a 7-0 vote, with Ward 1’s Jamie Mathy and Ward 4’s Julie Emig, recusing themselves for possible conflicts of interest.

The fund is part of Bloomington’s annual budget, awarding financial grants to help eligible businesses make ADA updates to business entrances. Ward said the fund is not well known.

Monday’s vote calls for city staff to research whether a new formula is possible where business owners pay 25% of those costs, compared with the current 50%; the grants pay the other half.

“Some of the repairs are so expensive the 50-50 is not enough for businesses to move forward,” she said.

Council members Sheila Montney of Ward 3 and Nick Becker of Ward 5 both expressed concerns about what reformulated grant awards would cost the city.

Juneteenth, Pride celebrations recognized

Also at Monday’s meeting, Mwilambwe read proclamations celebrating two separate June celebrations.

One notes Monday is the beginning of a weeklong celebration of Juneteenth in Bloomington. All events are virtual, given the ongoing pandemic.

In October, then-council member Mwilambwe successfully pushed for the city to officially recognize Juneteenth as a city holiday, andthe resolution passed unanimously. The holiday recognizes how a group of enslaved people in Texas received news of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865.

Arlene Hosea, of the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project, joined the meeting to accept the proclamation.

The mayor read a separate proclamation in honor of June being Pride month. The national celebration of LGBTQ people commemorates the protests that followed the June 28, 1969 police raid on New York City’s Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village.

In other business, the council approved:

  • Paying a $54,000 annual service agreement fee to the Mclean County Regional Planning Commission.
  • A liquor license for Texas Roadhouse, 1713 E. Empire St., set to open this fall.
  • A temporary permit for The Bistro to allow outdoor alcohol on June 26, during Pride Fest on the 300 block of Main Street.
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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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