Like many of you, we have watched the events unfolding over the past several days, both across the nation and here in our neighboring communities. We condemn racial injustice and bias in the strongest of possible terms, and we work on a daily basis to serve our community in a collaborative partnership that is respectful of our diversity. Pingree Grove is a better and stronger community for the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and other forms of diversity that our residents embody. We have had a number of calls from residents who are reaching out to express their support for our officers, our department and our community--and we are incredibly humbled by your support.
We also condemn unlawful behavior, and we have heard from residents who are expressing concerns regarding occurrences in nearby cities. We will not tolerate lawlessness, looting or other similar behavior in our community. That message should be clear and unambiguous.
In the past few days, there have been discussions in some of the online community pages regarding having a gathering or protest in honor of George Floyd, and the need for Law Enforcement Reform. I wanted to ask for a few moments of your time to discuss these topics.
First, we completely understand the desire to come together as a community and express our outrage at the death of George Floyd. The fashion in which he was treated is intolerable and incapable of being explained or justified. We share in the loss that this nation is feeling, in response to this senseless death. When we saw residents starting to discuss a gathering, the Village immediately reached out to those who were looking to organize an event, to ensure that we had an open line of dialogue and could collaborate in a safe fashion. We are continuing those discussions into today, and we look forward to partnering with our residents in a safe, but meaningful expression of our community-wide support for law enforcement reforms that are necessary to ensure that all people are treated with dignity, fairness, respect and equality. We will share more information with our residents in the coming days, as the primary organizers fully evaluate their direction. As Chief of Police, I am both humbled and incredibly grateful that our residents would engage with us in these challenging times, to ensure that their activities do effectively express their outrage, while also ensuring that they are organized in a way that keeps our community safe.
Second, there are police departments across the nation that are facing protests and that are working to respond with ideas on how they should modify their policing practices. Again, I am humbled at the public and private comments of support that our Department has received, and on behalf of our officers, I am honored to hear reports from members of our community with diverse backgrounds, including members of our BIPOC community, that they have been treated with dignity and respect by our officers. However, the issues of social justice and bias in policing are critical to the success of our Department, our community and our nation. Accordingly, we are not resting on our past success. In response to the tragedies of the past week, I have initiated internal reforms in our Police Department to ensure that we are doing everything possible in our Department to be a leader. At my direction, the Pingree Grove Police Department is immediately initiating the following actions:
- Use of Force: We are undertaking a comprehensive review of our use of force polices to ensure that they are aligned with best practices. This will include an extensive emphasis on deescalation, so that we can resolve situations without force whenever possible. It will also include a review of our less-lethal techniques and training, as well as our policies relating to the handling of persons in custody and persons in restraints. We will be reviewing policies in accordance with the recommendations of the Illinois and International Chiefs of Police Association, law enforcement accreditation agencies, and non-law-enforcement organizations that have developed best practices relating to these topics.
- Implicit Bias Training: Implicit bias training is specialized training that is utilized to help law enforcement officers identify their own prejudices and implicit biases, and work to overcome them so that bias does not have a place in the officer’s official conduct. The Village already incorporates implicit bias training into our Police Department curriculum, but we are redoubling our efforts to ensure that our training is effective and meaningful, and again to ensure that we are meeting or exceeding the best practices available.
- Review of Additional Opportunities: We are monitoring the recommendations of local, regional and national civil rights organizations, law enforcement organizations, and other valuable resources to identify additional areas where we can improve our responses, our policies, and the fashion in which we serve this community.
Our agency is working to be proactive. While we already maintain very high standards, this is an opportunity for us to revisit them and raise them even higher.
We look forward to partnering with our community to engage in a safe and meaningful expression of our collective outrage at the death of George Floyd. As a career law enforcement officer, I am truly pained to see the video of his death. And while his death is senseless, our Police Department is committed to ensuring that it is not meaningless. We are embracing this opportunity to reevaluate our procedures and policies, to ensure that incidents of this type never occur in our community.
I appreciate the words of support we have received, and I appreciate the opportunity to continue a dialogue of collaboration with our community. I will close this note with two comments that always stand.
First, if you see something suspicious or concerning, call 911. The sooner we receive a report of a potential issue, the sooner we can respond and hopeful address a low-level concern before it grows into something problematic.
Second, if you have a concern about the actions of one of our Police Officers, my door, my phone and my inbox are always open. Please feel free to contact me and share your concerns, as I take the obligation to serve this community very seriously.
A Police Department is intended to protect and serve. Protection without service is not meaningful, and we strive to provide both in equal measure. I look forward to continued dialogue with our community, and to continuing to enhance the effectiveness and professionalism of our Police Department.
Chief of Police, Shawn Beane