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Bloomington commission discusses issue of racial disparity


Racial disparity — and the search for solutions — was the subject of a discussion during the Bloomington Human Relations Commission meeting on Thursday.

With a focus delving into traffic enforcement by the Bloomington Police Department, chair Rhonda Smith and commissioners Anthony Jones and newly-appointed Vivian Kong Doctora discussed the matter with several people in attendance.

New data show Black drivers and pedestrians in Illinois are close to three times more likely than whites to be stopped by police, according to an Illinois Department of Transportation study recently analyzed by the ACLU of Illinois. In Bloomington, Black drivers and pedestrians were 6.2 times more likely than whites to be stopped.

“The Human Relations Commission would make recommendations to the city council in regards to consequences being carried out should a Bloomington police officer violate code of conduct, or exhibit racial bias during traffic stops,” said liaison Nikita Richards.

Jones brought forward studies conducted in Urbana that included formation of a 12-member task force to study the issue, adding Bloomington could implement a similar task force.

“What I am suggesting is that we take a similar approach, and a task force being formed as dedicated to studying that particular topic with the object trying to come to some fact-based recommendations,” said Jones, adding the human relations commission used to receive reports regarding traffic stop information.

Smith also recalled that practice, but was not aware of the reason for why it stopped, agreeing the documents should be reinstated into commission meeting discussions.

The conversation also included the consequences officers should face if found in violation of the police department's code of conduct.

“There has to be accountability to arrive at that behavior of change,” said Smith.

Wrapping up the agenda, the three commissioners who were present agreed to pause the discussion until the members who did not attend are available to voice their opinions on the topic.

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Jake Fogal is a correspondent at WGLT. He joined the station in 2021.
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