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New Citizen Advisory Committee To Work With Police In North Chicago

NORTH CHICAGO, Ill. (STMW) -- North suburban North Chicago announced Saturday the formation of a United States Justice Department-inspired Citizen Advisory Committee for the police department, and Mayor Leon Rockingham is calling for volunteers to be on it, the Lake County News-Sun is reporting.

"We, as a city, have worked very hard to get things started," said the mayor before turning the microphone over to former alderman Valerie DeVost, who described the new committee as one where the mayor cannot nominate anyone, but he will be able to choose who is on it.

"There will be no elected officials or city employees on the committee, and no person holding a board position, a city license or doing business with the city," she said, "This will avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest," she said.

Preacher LLoyd Howard, who called himself a concerned citizen, was worried that the committee would just have the same old names on it. "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results," he said. Howard went on to say that the problems of officers beating suspects, which is why the justice department recommended the committee, sometimes happens because an officer doesn't understand the lingo.

"The problem is they take a young black man out of the house and the white officer doesn't understand when he says 'Give me my props,' which means respect. That's when the problems start and 90 percent of the beatings are because of that. But it can be stopped," he said.

North Chicago has been the center of attention for police brutality and use of excessive force — the most publicized case involving the death of Darrin "Dagwood" Hanna, which resulted in a shakeup in the North Chicago Police Department. Last year, the city paid out $100,000 in cases relating to police brutality.

Back in 2007, city officials agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice to form a committee to work with the police department, but as DeVost said Saturday, "it flopped." She said this committee, also agreed to with the justice department last year, will be different.

"Now, we are putting some teeth into it. We do want change in this community," she said, also suggesting that some complaints of the mayor being able to pick the members should be taken back to the justice department "to get their take on it," she said.

Marian McElroy was on the first committee and she said she is concerned with the process, "because sometimes people are excluded from the process: 'Oh you're on this side, you're on the other side.' Bad feelings permeate this city and keeps people like me not wanting to participate. There's been people on some committees for decades," she said.

To be considered for the committee, you need to submit your name, address, and telephone number to the mayor by March 14, or you can nominate someone as long as thy are willing. The mayor will appoint the members by April.

Committee members will assist the police department in achieving a greater understanding of complex community problems in the areas of human relations, justice and diversity.

Committee members will also be responsible for promoting clear rules and procedures consistent with a modern police department and be able to disseminate factual and responsible information to the community in a timely manner to address myths and rumors that damage police/community relations.

Sharon Epps said people need to speak their minds and be honest and agree to disagree. "But we need to be more respectful. I understand what's happened in North Chicago, but we have to be respectful," she said.

Rockingham ended the press conference by saying he thinks they have a good police department. "There are some we may need to look at, yes, but our officers do a good job of policing the city of North Chicago," he said.

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