What You Got To Go Through To File A Police Complaint In Champaign

0 Flares Filament.io 0 Flares ×

Following on the heels of a similar proposition in Urbana,
the Champaign police department is currently considering
a citizen police review board. Just the mention of such an
oversight has provoked reprisals from the Mayor, the
News-Gazette, and their local law-and-order constituents.
The News-Gazette has already begun editorializing
against a police review board. An editorial ran on October
11, 2006 titled, “Police review board plan raises problems.”
As if concerned for the minority community, the editorial
says a review board will be a “tough sell to people who have
long viewed police either with suspicion or fear.” Of
course, many leaders in the African American community
have supported the formation of a police review board. The
suggestion is that nothing can (or should) be done to
improve police relations in the black community. Filing a
complaint is a relatively simple act, according to the News-
Gazette. A citizen police review board would “do nothing
except duplicate an existing discipline process.”
This sentiment was echoed by another editorial in the
News-Gazette from local citizen Michael Cook who said
that Champaign police already has an “effective complaint
Champaign police chief R.T. Finney has expressed his
interest in a police review board if it would bring more
credibility to investigations. But he also said, “We don’t see
substantial problems with our complaint process.”
Co-founder of V.E.Y.A. (Visionaries Educating Youth
and Adults) Martel Miller has had a different experience. It
is the story of, as Miller says, “What you got to go through
to file a police complaint in Champaign.”
On September 22, 2006, following a hip hop show by
Ludicris, there were several after-parties. One was at the
Iota house, a black fraternity on 1st Street. A young black
man who will remain unidentified says he tried to get into
the party but it was too crowded so he decided to leave. As
he was walking out, police outside told him he could not
go. He tried to explain that his car was across the street.
They told him if he crossed the street he would be arrested.
As soon as he stepped into the street, police arrested
him for jaywalking. Usually jaywalking is a ticketable
offense, but they arrested the young man, handcuffed him,
and put him in back of the squad car.
Next the police pulled the young man from out of the
car. While he was handcuffed, a police officer picked him
up off the ground and slammed him against the trunk of
the squad car. This was done as a show of force in front of
a large crowd of African Americans who were by this time
watching the whole incident. The young man was then
taken to jail and bailed out the next day.
The day after the incident, Martel Miller got a call from
the young man who explained how he was abused by
Champaign police. Miller told him to go file a complaint at
the Champaign police department. On September 24, the
young man went down to the police station to file a complaint.
He was met by Sergeant Matt Crane who got into
an argument with him. The Sergeant would not let him file
a complaint and threw him out of the police station.
Miller received a second call that day from the young
man who said he had been refused the right to file a complaint.
Miller decided to go down to the station with the
young man and try to file a complaint for a second time.
They gave the young man’s typed-written complaint to
someone at the dispatch window and asked for a superior
officer. Sergeant Crane came out with another Sergeant and
3 additional officers. As soon as Sergeant Crane saw the
young man, he started yelling at him and tried to kick him
out again. Miller interrupted and said, “This man is a citizen.
He has a right to file a complaint.” The Sergeant began
arguing with Miller. “The next thing I know,” Miller says,
“the Sergeant is trying to put me out of the police station.”
Miller then pulled out his cell phone and called Mayor
Schweighart who had in the past told Miller to call if there
was ever a problem with his police. The Mayor’s answering
machine was on and Miller left a message. The second
Sergeant then stepped in to talk to Miller and diffuse the
situation. Miller decided to leave but said he would be
back to file his own complaint against Sergeant Cane.
On September 26, Miller went back down to the Champaign
police department and delivered a typed-written
complaint to Lieutenant Yohnka (See side bar). The Lieutenant
told Miller that his complaint “wasn’t detailed
enough.” He wanted Miller to dictate a complaint and Lieutenant
Yohnka would write it out. Miller asked him if he
could have a copy of the Lieutenant’s typed up complaint.
Yohnka said, “No.”
Miller was given a form to sign agreeing to the truthfulness
of a complaint that he still had not seen. The form
said if the complaint was unfounded, Miller could be held
liable. Miller currently has a $15 million law suit against
Champaign for an incident in 2004 when police seized his
video equipment and charged him with felony eavesdropping
for videotaping police work. He is already suspicious
of Champaign police and knows how they will manipulate
the law to serve their own ends.
Miller asked Lieutenant Yohnka to fax the complaint to
a lawyer the and he agreed. But Miller said Yohnka only
faxed two blank sheets of paper. Miller called Yohnka on
the phone and Yohnka flatly told him he could not have a
copy of the complaint.
On October 19, Miller received a summary of his complaint,
but not the entire document. He issued a Freedom
of Information Act, but it was denied. According to Miller,
the Champaign police are now rewriting the policy on filing
a complaint. Miller says the message is:
“When you file a complaint, the Champaign police
decide if they are going to take a compliant or not. They will
write one down for you, but you can not see a copy of that
complaint. So you don’t ever know what your complaint is.
They say this complaint process is fair to the citizen.”
September 26, 2006

About Brian Dolinar

Brian Dolinar has been a community journalist since 2004.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.