Meeting Minutes & Video ~ 5.13.21

Action Ridge Meeting Agenda

May 13, 2021

Attendance via Zoom

Link to video Recording:

7:00pm – 7:05 There were 33 people on the call at 7:10.  Nan welcomed all of the participants, especially those who haven’t attended regularly.  Then she went over a brief calendar.

  1.  The Diversity Discussion Group will be talking about Evicted on May 26th.
  2. On June 2nd, the Housing Advocacy Group, will plan initiatives regarding Affordable Housing in Park Ridge.
  3. (Addition to the minutes) On June 3rd, the WIP (Work in Progress) Group will continue to explore ways to structure Action Ridge to ensure its longevity.
  4. Our next General Meeting will be on June 10th.  More later about that meeting.

7:03pm – 7:05pm   Current and Upcoming Actions

  1.  The BIO Bill is still pending.  Noreen has asked us to submit a request to our legislators to pass the bill.  Nan has included it in this email.
  2. “The Long Shadow” will be shown in collaboration with the Park Ridge Library, including a discussion group with the producer.
  3. The Public Comment urging the new Council to keep in mind issues of inclusion, respect and equity when forming policies was read into the record at the Council Meeting on May 10th.  139 people signed the comment.

7:05pm – 7:10pm–Introductions of the panelists and an overview of SAFE-T (Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity — Today) Act—Alissa

7:10pm – 7:55pm            Panel discussion about the SAFE-T Act with

Chief Frank Kaminski, Park Ridge Police Department

Peter Hanna, American Civil Liberties Union, Illinois

Sara Knizhnik, Newtown Action Alliance

1. Introduction of Chief Kaminski, who spoke about the positive aspects of the Act.

  1. Decertification to get rid of bad cops is good.
  2. Body cameras are helpful.  The officers like them.
  3. Training is good but it’s hard to do it consistently because of cost and the need to take officers off the street.
  4. Duty to aide is necessary and it’s good that it’s mandated by the law.

2. Peter Hanna of the ACLU

  1. He feels this is a good step forward. The elimination of cash bail is especially important.
  2. He agrees with the Chief’s assessment of the positive aspects of the bill.
  3. He added that implementation is the key.  Just having a law isn’t enough.

3. Sara Knizhnik

  1.  Criminal Justice reform can’t be separated from policing reform and gun violence prevention.
  2. This bill is a wonderful example of what a bill can do to effect systemic change.
  3. It restores balance to the criminal justice system.  It begins to right a long list of wrongs committed against the people and takes into account their needs, which is good for law enforcement and for those in the system; and it will reduce gun violence.  When the people are helped, gun violence goes down.
  •  Alissa asked about the use of body cameras in the school system.  Chief Kaminski stated that the SROS don’t have to use body cameras, despite the requirement in the bill.  He said that an exception can be made.  To protect student privacy, the schools don’t want them.
  • Chief Kaminski was asked whether training will increase because of the bill.  So far, the department is waiting for direction from the Training Board.  He feels that role-playing training is most effective and hopes that will be implemented. Virtual/interactive training might be used, as well.
  • Peter Hanna said that training is very important but isn’t helpful unless there’s enforcement and discipline of officers who don’t comply.  We need accountability and transparency.  The solution is interlocking the law and follow-up.
  • Sara agreed with the previous comments.  She said that training is good but once the officers get on the street, they may do things as they’ve always done them.  The culture needs to change.
  • Alissa asked Peter to talk about how to change police culture.  He said that there’s a need to have a preventative mindset so that certain situations can be avoided.  The police officers who aren’t willing to change need to be called out.  For a very long time, a 1,000 people have been killed by police each year, which is much more than in any other country.  That needs to change.
  • Chief Kaminski said that, in his long career, he’s seen very good cops and rogue cops.  He feels that leadership has to be willing to call out bad apples.  One bad cop can affect the whole force.  The arbitration process was difficult to deal with; but this new law will help Chiefs be able to get rid of bad cops.  There needs to be a mission statement, which everyone knows, understands and abides by.  The Chief needs to lead the way.
  1. The new law makes room for co-responder cooperation.  Alissa asked if the Chief can imagine a day when the police will not always be called—that a Social Worker or community support might be called, instead.  The Chief didn’t really answer this question but said that all of the officers get CIT (Crisis Intervention Training).  Now an officer always goes out with the Social Worker.  He is wondering if the day will come when there are more Social Workers.  He feels satisfied with the CIT and that it has changed the culture.  Now the officers know how to deescalate a situation. 
  1. Jac Charlier
  1. Jac worked on the aspect of the bill that deals with mental health and substance abuse issues.  He’s an expert on the intersection where policing deals with mental health issues. 
  2. Deflection by organizations and mental health professionals  in the community must be used more often.  The bill expands deflection so that states can get funding for their EMS initiatives.  There are 3 ways that deflection is done.

1. Officers have ready access to someone in the department to help those with mental health issues.

2.  Co-responder approaches, such as a police officer and another medical or behavioral health professional respond together.

3.  Community responders—police don’t respond and community leaders, such as churches, mosques, agencies like the Institute for Non-Violence (note-takers’ suggestion) and EMTs or a behavioral health professional respond.

Jac said that we must get “upstream” of police response and deal with the causes of the problems.

  1.  Alissa brought up the issue of “qualified immunity” which tends to allow bad apples to continue on the job.  It makes it hard to prosecute a rogue cop because he/she is protected by immunity. 
  2. Peter Hanna said that we need to be deferential about the difficulty of policing.  A police officer who makes a good faith error should be protected.  But “qualified immunity” should not be used when a police officer has violated a citizen’s constitutional rights.  Now there’s a “Bad Apple Bill” before the state legislature which can also make it easier to get rid of bad cops.   
  3. Chief Kaminski worries that good cops might not be protected when they are trying to do their jobs.  He worries about the profession and hears that good cops are afraid that, when they make a good-faith mistake, they could be prosecuted, jailed or fired.  Senior police are leaving and it’s hard to find new police, he said.  He hopes that a task force can address this concern. 

A team of Chiefs of Police are working on trailer bills to correct some of the weaknesses of the bill.  Police are in favor of police reform; but he feels that there are inconsistencies that need to be clarified.

7:55pm – 8:15pm            Discussion about Law Enforcement and Youth in Park Ridge

  1.  Alissa asked the Chief about the use of Restorative Justice principles in dealing with youth and the SROs at Maine South and Maine East.  The Chief feels that the SRO program is successful.  But he agrees that the program should be evaluated on-going.  He supports the idea of focus groups to make improvement. 

Alissa suggested that evaluation of the program is important, including outcomes.  Ginger Pennington, a City Council Watch Dog, suggested, at the last Council meeting, ways to evaluate outcomes.  The Chief says that the schools need to be onboard with any evaluation plan; but thinks they should be considered.

  • Alissa asked about the way that young people are dealt with in large groups and wondered if they were being “criminalized”.  The Chief said some of the kids aren’t from Park Ridge. He feels that police need to be involved.   Most of the kids are fine.  They do their best not to “criminalize the teens”.
  • Alissa asked if the citizen patrol groups receive implicant bias or culturally competence training.  The chief said that they are just “ordinary citizens” and don’t receive training.  He’s considering providing that training.

8:15pm – 8:30pm            Q&A (questions via chat function)

  1.  Is the police academy training adequate?  The Chief feels that it’s good enough.
  • The Chief is in favor of creating a teen center again.
  • As the law enforcement profession feels more pressure for reform, is there a way to allay the fears of good officers while dealing with the “bad apples”.  The Chief said he tries to allay their fears; but police personnel are still worried about whether they’ll be treated fairly.

The meeting ended on a positive note with Alissa speaking about the importance of the SAFE-T-ACT in bringing about positive change in policing.

8:45pm                             Meeting Ended

Respectfully submitted by Nan Parson.

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