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Black Lives Matter Share Police Encounters, Demands Citizen Oversight

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner agreed to a few changes requested during a standing-room-only, Black Lives Matter forum aimed at holding police accountable for strategies it says have unfairly targeted blacks and left some residents fearful to even drive the city streets. 

Stopped 10 Times By Police

Lifetime resident Rob Pfeifer said since he turned 16, he has been stopped by police at least 10 times.  Pfeifer told one anecdote in which he was driving a woman who had no license to work and was stopped because the car was registered to someone without a license. Pfeifer said a traffic stop that should have been 15 minutes turned into two hours as officers made them get out of the car and both of them were patted down. "I thought it was going to be a simple stop." 

Police then called a canine unit to come and search for drugs and weapons.  The dogs found nothing. "This was a mother who was trying to take precaution in a lawful way to get to work and not have any of those type of harassment problems."  Pfeifer says he no longer feels safe and avoids driving in Bloomington.

Other residents told stories in which Bloomington police officers escalated situations.  In one case, an officer pulled a taser during a traffic stop when a passenger questioned why the car was pulled over.  "What should have been a routine traffic stop turned into a terrifying experience for my friend and I," said Chris Rauls.  "Luckily my friend did not get tased and God forbid, shot and killed."

The nine-year Marine veteran explained all too often when a police officer shoots and kills an innocent, unarmed civilian, the most common narrative is always that they feared for their life.  But, he thinks police should use the military approach of using deadly force only as a last resort.

Heffner's Response

After testimony, Chief Brendan Heffner said his department is already doing several of the things requested such as de-prioritizing enforcement of minor offenses. He agreed to publish information about police stops yearly to improve transparency.  During the session the chief was only allowed to answer yes or no to requests, without any clarifying. 

He told WGLT this will be his last appearance at a Black Lives Matter forum, "I will invite them to the MAPP meeting.  This was not a discussion," the chief said after the forum.  He was referred to the Minority and Police Partnership meetings that occur every two months. They began 15 years ago when the NAACP complained about racial profiling and unfair police policies.

Heffner rejected the idea of a citizen oversight panel to review police complaints, recommend penalties, and inform police policies. "Civilians don't always know what we do and why we do it."

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