The majority of the police in Champaign and Urbana live elsewhere; Effect of non-residency on community policing debated at national level – CU-CitizenAccess.org

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The vast majority of police personnel in Champaign and Urbana do not live in the communities they serve.

In Champaign, nearly four in five police officers live outside the city, despite a one-time premium of $ 3,000 to live in Champaign. In Urbana, nearly nine out of ten police officers live outside the city and there is no residence allowance.

Residence data was provided to CU-CitizenAccess.org in response to an access to information request. Champaign has a total of 113 police officers and Urbana has a total of 58 police officers.

A national study found that around 60% of police officers in large cities live outside the city patrol. Champaign’s percentages are much higher, as around 78% of police personnel live elsewhere and approximately 88% of Urbana police personnel live outside the city limits.

Some Champaign police officers live more than an hour from the city they are patrolling. Two Champaign police officers live in Perrysville, Indiana, about 50 miles from Champaign, and a third lives in Mokena, a southwestern suburb of Chicago, nearly a two-hour drive from Champaign.

Tamara Cummings, general counsel for the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union for Champaign and Urbana, said there were pros and cons to residency requirements – which she said vary by jurisdiction .

“For example, having agents live in the community they work in increases the likelihood that agents have an understanding and familiarity with the members of the community they serve,” Cummings said via email. “On the other hand, I have heard very frightening stories about officers who live where they work and who meet people they have arrested and who have been threatened and their families.”

Urbana Police Chief Bryant Seraphin said the police department does not prioritize residence in the hiring process.

“I want to have the most, the best people, and whether they live in Urbana, Champaign or wherever, we want to make sure we get the best qualifiers,” Seraphin said.

He added that there are fewer people taking the test to join the police force:

“I will say that 27 years ago, when I took the test, there were 300 people doing it. (Now) we have 30. So we have to try to get the best candidates, wherever they come from.

Many policemen from Champaign and Urbana live in Mahomet. In fact, more police officers live in Mahomet than in Champaign and Urbana combined.

In total, 29 Champaign police officers reside in Mahomet while only 25 live in Champaign. Twelve policemen from Urbana live in Mahomet against seven in Urbana.

In another comparison, almost twice as many Urbana police officers live in Champaign than in Urbana. Thirteen Urbana policemen live in Champaign while only 7 Urbana policemen reside within the city limits in which they work.

The Urbana Police Department does not currently offer any residency bonus for police personnel. Urbana’s director of human resources, Elizabeth Borman, said the city is not planning to offer a residency bonus at this time.

Tracy Parsons, photo from the Champaign website.

Tracy Parsons, community relations manager for Champaign, doesn’t think residence is the most important issue in law enforcement, but said police officers need to know the community better.

“I guess my position… is really whether they live in the community or not, they have to learn, and we have to do a better job of policing in the communities,” Parsons said.

Residency programs in Illinois have had some success in improving community relationships with law enforcement. In Rockford, Ill., The Resident Agent Community Guardian Program, or ROCK, integrates selected agents into the communities they patrol. Officials said it builds trust and gives officers a personal interest in the neighborhood.

As concerns about police reform continue to be debated nationally, residency is only part of the puzzle. ROCK Officer Patrice Turner said in an interview in 2020 that “the mending of community relations will not come until the fractures of the past are resolved”, and people will see you as a simple cop without forming stronger bonds. in service.

Nationally, the residence is still being researched alongside other data-driven efforts to reexamine community policing.

Last year, Communities United Against Police Brutality, a Minneapolis-based volunteer organization, told USA Today it had encountered no evidence of residency requirements that had positive effects on the quality of police services. One member even said the residency requirements would be a “distraction from real reform,” such as ending no-strike warrants and other practices reviewed, the article said.




Claire O’Brien / For CU-CitizenAccess




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