Comment from ACLU to Urbana City Council Regarding Aleyah Lewis’ Arrest

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Champaign County ACLU appreciates the city of Urbana’s commitment to community-centered policing and to maintaining a well-trained professional police force that is held to the highest standards. We are concerned about the lack of professionalism during the April 10 arrest of Aleyah Lewis. Urbana officers are professionals who know how to use verbal techniques to de-escalate stressful situations, yet failed to do so. Instead, Urbana officers, the trained professionals in this interaction, rushed toward Ms. Lewis to arrest her, triggering a physical altercation.

De-escalation is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each interaction police officers have with community members carries a risk of infection—both for the officer and the community member. Officers should use every tool at their disposal to avoid taking individuals into custody.

We are also concerned by reports that Ms. Lewis was placed in confinement with individuals exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. The CDC recommends that symptomatic individuals be placed in medical isolation.

Finally we are concerned by reports that a Taser was used on Ms. Lewis. Tasers are not safe. Tasers can cause death, and their use has cost cities hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal settlements.

We urge the city of Urbana to investigate this matter professionally, transparently, and fairly. In these difficult and stressful times, Urbana needs its police department to live up to the highest standard of professionalism and to regain the trust of the community they serve.

Carol Spindel, President

Champaign County ACLU

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