Results of defunct Urbana Community Alternative Policing program a mystery; racial disparity reports no longer accessible

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, the site where Urbana Community Alternative Policing committee meetings were held.

Northern Urbana used to have a neighborhood association called Urbana Community Alternative Policing (UCAP). Now, there is no comprehensive program to represent residents’ concerns about policing. 

That’s what the UCAP advisory committee, created in 1993, was supposed to do for northern Urbana. 

UCAP was intended to be a catalyst for the community policing program. It no longer exists and there doesn’t seem to be a community policing program for northern Urbana, north of W. University Avenue and west of N. Broadway Avenue, or any other part of Urbana.

The last time the alternative policing program was mentioned was in UCAP advisory meeting minutes from May 17, 2018. The meeting minutes read: “Mayor Marlin finished by suggesting that the UCAP group merge with the Mayor’s Neighborhood Safety Task Force, which meets quarterly or as needed. This group includes representatives from all the different neighborhoods in the city. Discussion followed, and members agreed to join with the Task Force.” 

However, Mayor Diane Marlin said in an email that the two groups did not merge. The Mayor’s Neighborhood Safety Task Force no longer exists, and it did not have responsibilities related to policing.

Thus, it appears the UCAP committee was dissolved in 2018.

Former Urbana councilman Robert Lewis, who was not part of the UCAP committee, said in an interview that racial disparities in traffic stops, which he referred to as “Driving While Black,” was a key issue for the committee.

On the City of Urbana website, there are a few programs under the tab “Community Policing.” Crimestoppers pays people for crime-solving tips. The mentoring program offers scholarships and mentors for young students. The TRIAD/S.A.L.T Council advises law enforcement on issues experienced by senior citizens. Lastly, there is the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program. There are currently two resource officers, who are supposed to fulfill three roles: law enforcement, teacher and informal counselor.

The UCAP advisory committee was appointed in 1993 by former Mayor Todd Satterthwaite, to “evaluate program effectiveness, set goals and discuss specific problems and potential solutions,” according to an Urbana Police Department document

There are five policing bodies in Champaign-Urbana: the Champaign, Urbana and University of Illinois police departments, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office and the Illinois State Police. 

At the time, Urbana lacked the funding to disseminate information about the traffic stops issue to the five policing entities, Lewis said.

Lewis also referenced a traffic stop report that was presented by the committee. Neither the Urbana City Clerk’s office nor the Urbana Police Department holds these records.

The only data the city holds about the alternative policing program is city council meeting minutes, which often do not contain references to policing.

The committee met quarterly on the third Thursday each month at King School in Urbana. Most committee members were unreachable or unwilling to comment.

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