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Advisory Panel On Police Reform Proposed For Urbana City Council

The Urbana City Building.

URBANA – Mayor Diane Marlin says she’ll bring more details to the Urbana City Council next week on setting up an advisory committee to study policing in the city.

The mayor proposed the committee at Monday night’s city council meeting. It would be made up of community members, and could investigate everything from racial disparities in traffic stops to the effectiveness of armed officers in schools.

“We really need to have much more thorough, deeper and a much broader participation and dialogue about these issues, if we’re going to re-envision public safety in Urbana,” said Marlin.

Marlin says the committee of community members will have the time and resources to come up with proposals for meaningful change.

“If we’re looking at systemic change, we’re looking at what the future of our city’s going to look like ten year from now and 20 years from now,” said Marlin. So it needs to be very forward looking. And then, people have to be committed to being productive and civil with each other.”

Marlin says she wants the committee to be as inclusive as possible, with members representing all facets of the community.  The mayor says she’ll bring more details to the council next week on forming the committee.

The mayor made the announcement after the council once again heard from community members critical of the Urbana Police Department. Several who spoke to the council via Zoom repeated calls for defunding the police, eliminating the use of armed officers in schools, and dropping charges against Aleyha Lewis, whose arrest in April has elicited accusations of excessive force.

Monday night’s discussion marked the conclusion of an earlier city council study session on police matters held June 25. Ald. Jared Miller, who called for the police discussion along with Maryalice Wu (D-Ward 1) and Dennis Roberts (D-Ward 5), said he supported the advisory committee idea.

“That was going to be my primary push as well, to form a dedicated body of some sort to address these topics going forward, said Miller. “Because we could spend all night every night, at every committee of the whole and every council meeting working on these topics.”

Mayor Marlin also said that a proposal to provide services for people experiencing mental health emergencies would be presented to the city council at its August 17 meeting. The One Door program, first announced by Marlin in June, would bring various agencies and care providers together to focus on mental health emergencies currently handled by police.

Name Change For Plantation Point

In other action Monday night, the Urbana City Council voted to change the name of a short residential street in the Stone Creek subdivision on the city’s east side, from Plantation Point to River Birch Lane. Like the old name, River Birch Lane refers to the name of a golf course, in keeping with the Stone Creek policy for street names.

City administrator Carol Mitten told the council a majority of residents on Plantation Point sought the name change, because of historical associations linking the word plantation with slavery.

Ald. William Colbrook (R-Ward 6), who represents the area, said he had canvassed residents of the street, and found only one who was firmly opposed to the name change.

Picture of Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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