Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason said it’s "ridiculous” to suggest local governments will ever fully defund police, but he supports the discussion of how to better redirect some police resources.
Several city council members have said they want to begin that conversation amid the racial justice movement sparked by several recent killings at the hands of police, most notably George Floyd.
Gleason said that discussion already is happening at Bloomington City Hall.
“It’s very early stages of a conversation, but I think given the events nationally, it’s one that has already been occurring, but it’s definitely something that we need to talk more about, be a little bit more intentional,” Gleason said.
He said he'd like to see more reforms at the state level to help police departments get rid of cops who commit egregious acts such as excessive force or racial bias.
Gleason chairs the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board that sets guidelines for police training and conduct.
“It should jump to a level that says, 'This is unacceptable,'” Gleason said. “And the union protections that have been seen at the (Illinois) Labor Relations Board is something that I think is gaining support that that has to change.”
Gleason said he doesn’t see any problems with the city’s current labor contract with police.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has called for the state to begin licensing for police officers.
Law enforcement career
Gleason said he approaches the police funding question from several directions, given his 20-year career in law enforcement. He previously served as a police lieutenant in Pekin. He also teaches a criminal justice class at the University of Illinois-Springfield. Gleason said despite his background, he’s fine with the police and city council leading the discussion.
“You’re not going to see me out there necessarily talking about it,” Gleason said. “The community may not know that I wear these different hats. You need to see (Bloomington Police) Chief (Dan) Donath, the Normal (police) chief, the sheriff. They are the ones that lead that conversation at the local level, but I’m very much involved at the state level.”
Gleason added the national police registry that Congress is considering will help local governments track bad cops so they don't just move from one department to the next. The registry is included in the police reform bill the U.S. House has approved.
The Senate hasn't taken up the measure. Senate Republicans are trying to gain support for a competing bill that would maintain qualified immunity for police.
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