How and why three Illinois municipalities sought and got

community feedback on use of force and other policies

October 19, 2020

In recent weeks, at least three Illinois communities and police departments -- Aurora, Park Ridge, and Springfield -- have added a level of transparency by seeking feedback from their citizens about their use of force policies. In all three cases, citizens gained a better understanding of why the police do what they do. Below are summaries from their chiefs about how the process worked:

Aurora gets 60 recommendations after seeking feedback
Chief Kristen Ziman:

The City of Aurora launched the CHANGE initiative (Community Helping Aurora's Necessary Growth and Empowerment) in response to the civil unrest occurring across our nation. 

As part of the initiative, we invited our citizens to offer feedback on our Use of Force and Training policies. We chose these policies because they are among the most controversial and (obviously) the source of the unrest. 

Our process was to post a link to sign up for a session (citizens may only attend one session for each policy review). We limited the participants to 50 to keep in alignment with COVID restrictions.

We brought sworn officers and subject matter experts as representatives from the PD so they could offer guidance and answer questions. This proved to be invaluable.

A moderator was hand-picked and their job was to ensure that the participants stayed on track and offered recommendations. This became an imperative part of the process, because there were a lot of angry people present who used their time to complain about the police. The moderator was charged with stopping them and stating, "What is your recommendation?" We sent out packets ahead of time so participants had copies of the policies and could review them before the meeting. This also helped to stay streamlined and on track.

A representative from the city acted as the scribe and captured all the recommendations that citizens offered.

That list of 60 recommendations was forwarded to the PD, and we are in the process of going through them and determining which we can implement. Keep in mind that many of the recommendations made cannot be accepted because much of the Use of Force policy comes directly from legislation and we do not have the authority to alter that. 

However, there were a handful of good suggestions that we will be adopting.


Park Ridge mayor creates task force to review use of force
Chief Frank Kaminski:

After the Minneapolis tragedy, Park Ridge Mayor Marty Maloney began to receive calls and emails from residents in the community asking the question: Can what happened in Minneapolis happen in our community?  Specifically, residents wanted to know if the Mayor supported the Obama Challenge (a call for mayors to review their use of force policies) and The 8 Can’t Wait Campaign.  The Mayor and I talked, and after reviewing the 8 Can’t Wait Campaign, I felt confident that we had addressed all eight points, and after explaining this to the Mayor, he also agreed. But I felt that the Mayor just stating that we meet this campaign would not be enough to promote transparency and accountability.

As a result, I asked the Mayor if he could create a Mayor’s Task Force to specifically review our Use of Force policy, procedures and practices. The Mayor created a Task Force of ten highly talented and respected people throughout the community to report its finding to him directly.

My staff prepared a detailed PowerPoint presentation that presented the following:

  • Welcome - Mayor Maloney and Alderman Melidosion, Public Safety Chair  
  • Mission, Materials, Process
  • Background  -  Chief Kaminski on Park Ridge Police Culture
  • Part I - Response to Resistance: Demonstrate compliance to the 8 Points and demonstrate how the Park Ridge PD goes beyond that
  • Part II - Training on Response to Resistance
  • Part III - Audit and Review Process; Checks and Balances; Presentation of two Body Worn Camera videos – two armed subjects
  • Conclusion       

The Task Force met virtually for one evening for four hours.  Prior to meeting, materials were sent to all the Task Force members and included: Department directives, Use of Force Reports from PERF, etc. There was considerable discussion by the group about the Body Camera videos, and they probably provided the most information on how officers use de-escalation tactics in these situations. Overall, this virtual process proved to be very effective.

The Task Force unanimously concluded that the Park Ridge Police Department’s policy and practices are aligned with the 8 Can’t Wait principles. They also concluded that in many ways the Department’s practices went well beyond the 8 principles.

This process produced several takeaways:

1)    It was an opportunity to demonstrate to the community and our elected officials the professional policies, procedures and training of our staff related to the use of force.

2)    The process helped the participants understand the aspects of use of force, or as we prefer to call it, “response to resistance,” and they realized how extensive our policies and procedures were in addition to the levels of accountability we have in place.   

3)    This process showcased our culture to the community by emphasizing best practices and de-escalation

4)    Finally, by conducting an open forum, the department showed its transparency and in turn helped to continue to build public trust.


Springfield revises general orders, meets with BLM, and gets feedback
Chief Kenny Winslow:

We took a different approach. After debriefing the George Floyd incident and subsequent multi-day protests as both a staff and a department, we decided to look at our current policies along with the “8-Can’t Wait” recommendations.  We were obviously aware of the discussions at the national, state and local level about policing as a whole and potential reforms. We took a look at what was being recommended and realized we were doing most of it and decided to embrace the reforms that we thought made our department, community and profession stronger instead of waiting for mandates to come down. 

We drafted updates to our general orders and began meeting in small groups with select representatives of various civic organizations, neighborhood associations, elected officials, etc. to include but not limited to members of the NAACP, NOBLE and Black Lives Matter-Springfield, whom we never really had a “relationship with,” just casual conversations and an exchange of contact info.

The goal was to discuss recent events (national and local), protests, and how to avoid something similar occurring here.  Often times the discussions turned into educations sessions on “why we do what we do,” how things can go “bad,” “reform” and “accountability.”  We had candid discussions about policing and our belief that we needed some consistencies among agencies regarding use of force, hiring practices, “bad apples” and other topics. We discussed things we were open to changing and told them that we would provide them a copy of our updated “draft” general orders on professionalism, use of force, rules of conduct, search warrants, recruiting, discriminatory practices, etc. 

The small groups were deliberate and allowed us to have respectful dialogue, answer questions, hear concerns and recommendations without becoming defensive.  After some of these meetings we incorporated some of their recommendations into our “draft” orders.  For example, BLM suggested we break out our duty to intervene rule and combine with our duty to report rule.  Previously, it had been under our Neglect of Duty rule.  Additionally, we included more prominent language on de-escalation into all of our use of force policies. 

We then finalized our updated general orders along with our new “Pledge to Professionalism.”  We sent the pledge and updated general orders to a wider audience to include the Ministerial Alliance, Faith Coalition for the Common Good, NAACP, BLM, Springfield School District 186, neighborhood associations, elected officials, and other civic and social groups. We asked for feedback. 

This led to some larger discussions and Zoom meetings with additional stakeholders, activists and media.  No one really had an issue with the orders, but there was obviously a common sentiment that “law enforcement needed to change.”  I often heard, “Chief, we know your guys do a fairly good job but we don’t want things to go sideways here.”

Hot topics centered around:

  • The belief that LE is quicker to use of force against minorities
  • Racial Profiling
  • Police Citizen Review Boards (we currently have but they would like to see changes)
  • No-knock search warrants
  • Training

I did get some pushback from a couple of folks who wanted us to do a town hall type event or open meetings like Aurora did, but we felt that they would not be productive and would lead to more of a “gripe session” and people becoming defensive. 

Positives that came out of this process:

  • Education and a better understanding of what we do out there
  • LE is willing to listen, evolve and embrace positive change
  • Some community buy-in
  • Monthly meetings with BLM-SPI as we work to build a relationship
  • Collaboration with BLM-SPI and the USA on a community education program “BLAST”

These are difficult conversations.  You want to be open minded to change, hear concerns while educating and defending our profession.  Obviously, some of these things are still a work in progress, but it’s one step at a time. 

Additionally, we used NOBLE as a third-party mediator at our first meeting with BLM-SPI.  This, along with having the Mayor host the meeting (more neutral location), helped break down barriers and keep us focused.

Are you doing this?

If your department is getting public feedback on use of force or other high-profile police policies, please let us know. Send information to Executive Director Ed Wojcicki at [email protected]