Police reform talk gets testy in Oak Park

Village board orders public conversations, consultant

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

Oak Park's village board clashed sharply Monday evening over how to approach police reform discussions in the village. Two votes, one early in the meeting and another at the end, delivered some direction to staff on next steps.

In the first vote trustees agreed 6-1 to accept Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb's June 8 pledge to the Obama Foundation to evaluate local police use-of-force policies, to address issues of police violence and systemic racism.

That vote followed disagreements which started not even 10 minutes into the meeting.

 "I am not in support of this resolution as written for several reasons," said Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla. "The first is that we cannot just have a resolution that speaks to the Obama Foundation pledge because in this moment, that pledge and taking that pledge is not enough."

Secondly, Walker-Peddakotla said the pledge had to acknowledge the harm done by the current and previous village boards of Oak Park for not listening and responding to complaints of racial profiling by local police officers.

"We have to have some reparations language in this resolution because we're not even acknowledging that, up until this point, this resolution, we have ignored as a village the claims from people about the fact that we've had problems in our policing," she said.

Walker-Peddakotla said the resolution's lack of commitment to repairing past harm caused the resolution to mean very little to those who have experienced police violence, especially in the form of racial profiling.

She said the police reform discussion "cannot just be about the use-of-force policy," her third reason for not supporting the resolution.

The board passed the resolution with only Walker-Peddakotla dissenting.

Despite the mayor calling for cooperation, disagreements between board members ramped up after the resolution was passed, with the discussion of what directions the board should give staff to carry out regarding implementation of the framework detailed in the Obama Foundation pledge.

In a presentation to the board Village Manager Cara Pavlicek recommended giving the public greater transparency into a number of police-related topics, including the officer hiring processes, the legal foundation of police, equipment use and facility use, the department's promotion and disciplinary policies, as well as the department's organizational structure, collective bargaining processes, and the responsibilities of citizen commissions connected to policing.

Following the gathering of community feedback, Pavlicek recommended giving Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds the opportunity to make recommendations and then allowing the community to comment on them.

Finally, the board would then have a discussion about the recommendations. Pavlicek asked assistant village attorney Rasheda Jackson to act as the administrative lead during the process.

The mayor called for a complete and comprehensive, fact-driven audit.

"I'm committed to having our police department audited by an independent third party, preferably an academic institution, for the purpose of examining our policies and procedures both," said Abu-Taleb.

Walker-Peddakotla wanted to know if use of force was the biggest problem in the police department because Pavlicek called it most important in her memorandum.

"What were the metrics used to come up with the conclusion that the use of force is the most important thing we need to evaluate in our policing of Oak Park at this time?" she asked.

"I feel that the authority and ability of police officers to make the judgments to use force, and most notably deadly force, is one of the most serious things they can do," said Pavlicek. "But I leave it to the village board."

Walker-Peddakotla also asked Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds to provide the number of use-of-force complaints that have been filed against the police department within a calendar year. She also asked if the department has a record of that information over multiple years.

"I do not have that information at my fingertips," Reynolds said. "Based on my review of all complaints that come through the village, I can only think of one in this past year that we heard at CPOC (Citizen Police Oversight Commission)."

Reynolds said complaints against police are typically about discourtesy or lack of understanding of process.

Walker-Peddakotla said she didn't think use of force was the main problem with policing in Oak Park because a report from Freedom to Thrive, an organization which she helped create "because this board was resistant to looking into matters of policing," found that Oak Park's use-of-force policy "is actually OK."

Trustee Susan Buchanan said the village has a major opportunity to reevaluate public safety and suggested the village put together a task force, as well as hire an experienced consultant, with which Trustee Deno Andrews agreed.

Andrews wanted the consultant to guide the board through conversations and to collect accurate data.

"We all want to see policing that is proper, that treats people fairly with dignity and respect," said Trustee Dan Moroney.

Moroney said there were two stances regarding policing: one that considered police integral in maintaining community safety and the other was looking to defund police.

Moroney also said to paint police as a whole in a bad light is "damaging to the people you purport to represent."

"Basically, what he just said is he doesn't want me involved in the conversation," she said.

"For the record, Arti, if your group wants to abolish the police, I don't want you leading the effort in it," said Moroney.

Trustee Simone Boutet said Reynolds should be involved in the conversation because he has both the perspective of being a member of the police and as a Black man; she was confused with what specifically the board wanted a consultant to do.

"I've been a black male in America for almost 49 years. These issues that we're talking about, this is me; this is my life," Reynolds said.

Reynolds also believed that the village could learn just as much without a consultant.

As the meeting came to a close, the board directed staff to hold a community-based conversation, research an independent consultant or auditor and review the ordinance establishing CPOC and the parameters for their operations.

In this decision, Walker-Peddakotla was also the sole negative vote.





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Reader Comments

16 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Comment Policy

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 10:25 AM

How would you prove profiling? An officer working the east side of OP would certainly stop a fair share of AA because counting Austin and OP there are more AA drivers in the area. Would you count citations issued? Then subtract the number of passes given by the officer to a group? Would you subtract the number of probable cause citations issued? Example, officer gives a motorist a pass on a tail light being out, second stop for the same offense yields a driver driving on a revoked drivers license? No citation first stop, second stop an almost must citation issued incident? So, what would be the standard.

Waldhorn Fafner  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 12:14 AM

Defund the police? Why did we fund the police in the first place. Consultant - gee in the corp world we do that so that if it works then "gee, we hired a great super consultant" and if it doesn't then "gee we hired the best, how were we to know that the consultant didn't know his stuff?". Golly, maybe we should just replace everyone with consultants.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: June 24th, 2020 8:17 PM

So, if "the real experts are the people who live the experience of profiling, discourteous treatment, and other harmful, inappropriate police behaviors," does that then mean that the real experts on disease are the people who've gotten sick and experienced illness. Because that makes no sense to me. In both cases, they're victims, not experts.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2020 7:31 PM

Once you say "defund the police" , you have lost your voice because no sane person will take you seriously any longer.

Ellen Edwards from Oak Park   

Posted: June 24th, 2020 6:37 PM

Democracy is messy, and this meeting proved it. I watched it live. The mayor's blatantly dismissive and hostile treatment of trustee Walker-Peddakotla was embarrassing. Using a consultant is not smart or even necessary; even Police Chief Reynolds stated we can get good results without one. Consultants are not always experts; the real experts are the people who live the experience of profiling, discourteous treatment, and other harmful, inappropriate police behaviors. Ignoring the work done by Freedom To Thrive is offensive; and the idea that a consultant is impartial is a false argument whose purpose is to make it easier for trustees to take a safe, non-controversial path. No amount of data will increase trust of police by people of color. Trust will increase when they see different behaviors and greater access to mental health programs, affordable housing, addiction programs, and fair, courteous treatment. We should start by re-engaging dialogue with community members in Freedom To Thrive, ROYAL, along with police chief Reynolds, and Village Trustees and staff. And we should do it without delay or consultants.

Melanie Joyce Halvorson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2020 11:53 AM

@JasonCohen I agree with you. Arti was the single person, according to the article, who questioned the focus of the study. Reynolds confirmed that they don't get use of force complaints, they get complaints about discourtesy or lack of understanding about process. Let's let data lead this, not our assumptions or personal experience or lack therof. Arti has experience and perspective that other Trustees lack, and it sounds like those are constantly discounted or dismissed because they are not experienced by others. She's speaking truth and making other Trustees uncomfortable with it, so that makes her "unprofessional" and "disruptive". There was a reason she was elected--to speak for many OPers who are not represented by the other Trustees.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: June 24th, 2020 10:54 AM

Communism arguments are just stupid so let's stop with this kind of distraction. Religion has no place in government period so that's silly also. I do very much agree that we should be using facts. I don't think the biggest issue for the OPPD is overuse of force. Why spend money and time focusing on something that isn't happening here? I am not against the discussion but my guess is the larger issue is profiling of people of color. Let's focus on the facts and not emotions. What's the most significant area that should be focused on based on the data?

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 24th, 2020 10:37 AM

1. Healthcare Control - Spend enormous amounts of tax payer money paying higher than market rates for medical procedures and prescriptions making it unaffordable and forcing all citizens to rely then on gov't subsidies for healthcare. Meanwhile enriching all your political buddies in big pharma, insurance companies and hospitals. Check 2. Poverty - Incentivize single parenthood, break down the family, put people in prison for decades, profit off of that and ensure they are never able to be self sufficient. Check 3. Debt - Subsidize basic needs like healthcare, higher education, etc. and shockingly those essentials that are subsidized inflate in price exponentially. Meanwhile again enriching all their cohorts in i.e. higher education (Northwestern $9 billion endowment, U of C $8 billion, Harvard $40 billion, Yale $25 billion, etc.). Check 4. Gun Control - Limit the capacity of citizens to defend themselves as Chicago has and other major cities. Pretend we are so safe there is no need for guns and gov't will provide all the protection you need. Meanwhile those touting this have armed security and live in gated communities. Check 5. Welfare. Please refer to point 2. Check 6. Education Provide substandard public education so people can't think for themselves. Then promise every 4 years when election time comes around they will "invest" in education and improve it. i.e. CPS. Check 7. No comment 8. Class Warfare - Mainstream media pushes this agenda everyday. An hour of watching anything from MSNBC to CNN to Fox and it will be crystal clear. Depict those who are successful as being somehow privileged and all their success was simply handed to them on a silver platter and the rest of us are entitled to a piece of their pie. Check

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2020 8:40 AM

R. Lopez - very smart. J. Smith - My mother said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything."

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: June 24th, 2020 7:15 AM

J. Smith one, R. Lopez zero.

Nick Polido  

Posted: June 24th, 2020 6:21 AM

de·lu·sion·al /d??lo?oZH(?)n?l/ characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: June 24th, 2020 12:41 AM

Here is the communist game plan for control of America as currently being executed by dictators Putin and Xi Jinping. It used to be unimaginable in America. 1) Politics - Install a stooge in the White House to do the Kremlin's and Beijing's bidding - check; 2) Democracy - Infiltrate and undermine the United States' voting process - check; 3) Race - Stir up racial hatred in America by posting racist, inflammatory material on Facebook, Twitter and other social media - check; 4) Healthcare and other social programs - Falsely portray programs that benefit all Americans (like universal healthcare and Social Security) as communism to enflame opposition - check; 5) Gun control - infiltrate the NRA and other similar organizations and make sure dangerous, uninformed Americans have easy access to guns - check; 6) Education - undermine public education in America by co-opting Republican politicians to cut funding and steer public funds to private schools - check; 7) Religion - manipulate right wing religious zealots into believing an amoral, morally depraved communist puppet president is on their side - check; 8) Class warfare - using right wing media, divide people by race, religion, gender, sexuality and wealth to ensure that bigots, homophobes and a corrupt class of the rich control every aspect of American life and culture - check; 9) Pretend that taxing the rich is communism hoping that people will forget what Jesus said about the rich - check; 10) Finally, convince at least one person in every town in America to constantly post communist propaganda as if it's anti-communist propaganda - check and double check. Then sit back and enjoy the show.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 23rd, 2020 11:06 PM

Here is the communist game plan for control. Should look very familiar: 1) Healthcare - Control healthcare and you control the people. 2) Poverty - Increase the poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them. 3) Debt - Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty. 4) Gun Control - Remove the ability to defend themselves from the government . That way you are able to create a police state. 5) Welfare - Take control of every aspect (food, housing, income) of their lives because that will make them fully dependent on the government. 6) Education - Take control of what people read, listen to and take control of what children learn in school. 7) Religion - Remove the belief in God from the government and schools because the people need to believe in ONLY the government knowing what is best for the people. 8) Class Warfare - Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. Eliminate the middle class. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to tax the rich with the support of the poor.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 23rd, 2020 11:04 PM

More history for all you comrades who follow Arti: ""Your children's children will live under communism. You Americans are so gullible. No, you won't accept communism outright; but, we will keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you will finally wake up and find you already have Communism. We will not have to fight you. We will so weaken your economy, until you will fall like overripe fruit into our hands. The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." It was September 29, 1959

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 23rd, 2020 11:03 PM

Thank you Mr. Reynolds for bringing common sense to the conversation and discouraging the use of another "consultant" to tell us what to do.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 23rd, 2020 8:07 PM

It is really a shame that the unprofessional antics of one Board member can go on in this way. Hats off to the Board for standing up to her behavior.

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