The new chairman of the Urbana Civilian Police Review Board says he’s committed to fundamental reforms in the panel’s performance.
Criticism of police conduct at recent Urbana City Council meetings has included the city’s Civilian Police Review board.
At a meeting of the Urbana CPRB Wednesday night, Chairman Mikhail Lyubansky noted a list of criticisms of the panel’s work in a petition posted on change.org by Bijal Patel. The criticisms range from failure to keep up with required paperwork, to a CPRB vote to stop reviewing cases of police Taser usage. The petition also accuses Urbana Police and city staff of taking various steps to limit residents’ access to the complaint process,
Lyubansky, a University of Illinois psychology professor who teaches a course on restorative justice, said he didn’t agree with all of the criticisms. “But for the most part,” he added, “I want to acknowledge that the CPRB has not lived up, I think, to community expectations in the way that the community expects us to, and the way that I think a lot of the commission members expect us to.”
Also at the meeting, city administrator Carol Mitten promised that the CPRB will get the help they need from city staff from now on.
The Urbana CPRB was established in 2011 under the city’s previous mayor, Laurel Prussing. The review board is not part of the Urbana Police Department, but works with staff assistance from the city’s Human Relations Office. Critics have accused city staff of obstructing the panel, when they should be assisting it. Mitten responded to board member Scott Dossett’s complaint that their administrative support had fallen short since the departure of a key employee six months ago.
“I understand that there have been lapses in the past,” said Mitten. “And we’re not going to be perfect, but I’m personally here to join this effort to get the CPRB on a good footing.”
CPRB members spent most of the meeting reviewing a list of reforms it wants to implement in the coming months. They include plans to meet monthly instead of quarterly; a revised form for making complaints about police conduct that is easier to understand and doesn’t have to be notarized; a proposal to have a CPRB sub-committee review all police complaint investigations, not just appeals of complaints that have been ruled on by the police chief; and having complaints checked and sorted by city staff, in anticipation of a sharp increase in their numbers.
Review board members expressed general agreement with the proposals. However, formal votes are being put off until a future meeting, after all members have completed orientation sessions, including the newest member, Patrice Pelmore. Other proposals will require the Urbana City Council to revise city ordinances before they can take effect.
In addition, there is a vacancy on the Civilian Police Review Board, due to the resignation of Darius White. Urbana residents interested in applying for the position should contact the Urbana mayor’s office.