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Normal's Human Relations Commission Plans Next Steps After Floyd Killing

Grid of commissioners
Normal Human Relations Commission members during Tuesday night's meeting.

The Normal Human Relations Commission met this week to deliberate on how to make positive changes within the community.

NHRC members agreed Tuesday they would like to be more proactive in the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggles facing both the local community and the nation. Their stated goal is to give the community a voice and find more ways for the public to become involved.

“There’s a lot of momentum around the community,” said commissioner Luis Figueroa. “How can we take that energy and keep it moving it forward, to really drive good change, where not only is this an inclusive environment, but a safe environment for our black community members.”

Former President Barack Obama recently challenged all mayors, police officers and city councils to review the police use of force policies in their city—a pledged signed by Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner.

The NHRC, meanwhile, said it plans to bring the #8Can’tWaitCampaign to the attention of both Normal Mayor Chris Koos and Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner in hopes to have them sign their approval. The campaign proposes eight policies to reduce harm caused by the police.

“I think in our community we are doing those things,” said Chairperson Janessa Williams. “To ask our mayor and police chief to sign on, that this is the way they are going to move forward and that they are going to adopt that is not a stretch in my mind.”

Indeed, Bleichner recently told WGLT that his officers already are not allowed to use chokeholds and that de-escalation training is required.

With the current pandemic, the human relations committee is searching for safe ways to have more human relations events and get the community involved. The committee proposed multiple ideas, including searching for a way to facilitate a conversation between the police and the community, as well as collaborating with other organizations.

Overall, the NHRC plans to assess what is working for the community and what needs to be changed, while aiming to get a good understanding of how the community feels.

“I think the town’s momentum is there, they just need that next step planned out for them,” said Figueroa. “We have to shape that path if we want to modify human behavior.”

The commission’s goals include fostering and promoting better understanding and relations between all people in Normal, and to promote better conditions with respect to housing, employment, recreation, health, and other services that enhance the quality of life. 

The Bloomington Human Relations Commission also met recently and discussed next steps in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis.

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