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Bloomington Aldermen Want More Info, Time Before Police Board Vote

Chief Heffner talks to aldermen
Charlie Schlenker
Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner talks to the Bloomington City Council about a citizen review board.

The Bloomington City Council likely won’t be voting on the proposed police civilian review board Monday as planned, after aldermen asked the police chief to share more information about current practices.

Instead of a vote, Police Chief Brendan Heffner will address aldermen during a special meeting at 5:15 p.m., before the council’s regularly scheduled 7 p.m. session. The delayed vote has raised concerns among those advocating for the new civilian review board that it’s a stall tactic that may scuttle the idea.

Mayor Tari Renner said Friday that five aldermen requested more information from Heffner about how the current civilian complaint process works and the police department’s recent community outreach efforts. Heffner has talked to the council about both topics before.

"It seems that the council wants a little more time to deliberate or process things."

The delayed vote, he said, doesn’t mean the council won’t ultimately create a civilian review board.

“I would hope that’s not the case,” Renner told GLT. “It seems that the council wants a little more time to deliberate or process things.”

Alderman Joni Painter, whose Ward 5 is on the city’s near-east side, was one of the five council members to request Monday’s discussion with Heffner. She said it’s not a delay tactic.

“I think we need to put things in perspective and just let people know that we’ve got a very good police chief who’s working very hard to keep everyone safe and to be fair to everyone,” Painter said.

Painter says she feels ready to vote. She declined to say which way she leans on creating the panel.

“We just wanted to give Chief Heffner an opportunity to tell everyone all of the things he’s been doing to ease everybody’s worries about police brutality and what-not,” Painter said.

Sparked by violent episodes across the country and perceived bias locally, community support has mounted in recent months for the creation of an independent, citizen-led review board to monitor the actions of the Bloomington Police Department. Local organizations pushing for the board include NAACP of Bloomington-Normal, the justice organization Not In Our Town, the YWCA of McLean County and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

See the agenda for Monday’s Bloomington City Council meetings.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.
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