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Normal Panel: Share More Data, Create New 'Policing Culture' Board

Just a month after Bloomington’s aldermen created a new police advisory board, the Normal Town Council heard recommendations Monday for improving how its officers interact with people of color.

Members of the town’s Vision 2040 subcommittee on race and law enforcement delivered a 12-page document Monday. Those recommendations included more roundtable discussions, listening sessions, and social gatherings in places like Uptown Circle. But they also laid out some structural changes, including more open and publicly available data-sharing about police-resident interactions.

The Vision 2040 subcommittee, which was formed in January, also suggested creation of a new Community Policing Culture Board. Trying to distinguish it from the new police board in Bloomington, the Vision 2040 members say their board would be “less reactive and more holistic.” It should be piloted first, they said.

The Vision 2040 subgroup also referenced a report released earlier this year by Illinois State University’s Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development, showing that police traffic stops in Normal far outpace the number of stops in larger central Illinois cities.

No formal action was taken Monday. Normal Town Council member Chemberly Cummings said the town should set the tone. She says elected officials must be willing to roll up their sleeves, put their biases aside, and do the work.

“We’re at a prime spot in this community. We’re a growing community. We have the opportunity to be an example to other communities around us,” Cummings said.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said on GLT's Sound Ideas that moving toward a Community Policing Culture Board is now a focal point for him.

"The initial recommendation is very strong. The work they did was very frank and honest. They asked each other tough questions. Going forward, the proof is in the pudding," Koos said. "What we're going to do with this is what we're going to be looking at."

YWCA McLean County President D. Dontae Latson, who lead the Vision 2040 subgroup, said police in Normal receive a lot of praise, but they are not doing good enough if only certain people feel safe. He cited an episode in which police pulled over an African-American ISU student, and four additional cops were called in.

While the process may start with winning buy-in from Normal police leadership, Latson said the ultimate goal is to get rank-and-file officers to take ownership of the issue.

"So that when (Normal Police Chief) Rick (Bleichner) steps away from the job, and someone else steps in, it's not going to be the leadership per se. It's going be the officers, the rank-and-file, saying, 'Hey guy, we don't do business like that here,'" Latson said.

Normal Town Council member Scott Preston says Normal is taking the right steps.

Future conversations between stakeholders should be “built on open and honest conversation, calling it what it is, mutual respect all the way around, (and) being proactive and productive,” Preston said.

You can also listen to GLT's full interview with Koos and Latson:

GLT's full interview with Mayor Chris Koos and YWCA McLean County's D. Dontae Latson.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.