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Group marches against police-involved shooting deaths
Posted By Brandon Reid On November 21, 2012 @ 7:00 am In Local News, News | 1 Comment
Local group Justice for Our Children marched against recent police-involved shooting deaths in Rockford Monday, Nov. 19.
The march began and ended at Kingdom Authority International Ministry, 518 N. Court St., Rockford, the site of the Aug. 24, 2009, police-involved shooting death of 23-year-old Mark Anthony Barmore, an African-American. A similar march was held in 2009 following Barmore’s death.
Three African-American men — Phillip Johnson Jr., Logan Bell and Demetrius Bennett — have been shot and killed by Rockford police in separate incidents in 2012.
Following is a press release from Justice for Our Children distributed prior to the Nov. 19 march:
Justice for our Children is a group of concerned citizens who are seeking to shed the national spotlight on the continued use of deadly force in police interventions involving African-American men.
In 2012 alone, Rockford Police Department has used deadly force toward Phillip Johnson (Jan. 28), Logan Bell (Oct. 11) and Demetrius Bennett (Nov. 1).
This community has experienced a number of police-involved shootings since 1992 with 13 of the 26 having been fatal shootings.
The City of Rockford Police previously garnered national attention after the police killing of an unarmed man, Mark Anthony Barmore (August 2009) in Kingdom Authority Church. This killing of an unarmed man led to an investigation by the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and a group of local leaders participated in a mediation committee convened to provide recommendations for future law enforcement interventions.
To date, little information has been made public. The concerned citizens bring you this message in the hopes the national and even global community will support us in creating a community in which men of color do not live under the constant threat of excessive and deadly force of the Rockford Police Department.
The community at large can support Justice for Our Children by:
1. Marching and rallying with us Monday, Nov. 19, at noon.
2. Having a national moment of silence to stand in solidarity with a community grieving from repeated use of deadly force.
3. Assisting us in creating and implementing policies that allow for the humane treatment of African-American men by the Rockford Police Department. Such policies should be consistent with current law enforcement best practices. Such policies should also be consistent with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recommendations.
4. Volunteering your talents to empower a community ruled by historically oppressive measures.
Police use of deadly force in 2012
Phillip Johnson Jr., 29, was shot and killed by Rockford Police officer Amado Soria Jan. 28 after police responded to a 911 call of shots fired near the intersection of Fairview and East State Street.
Officers stopped a vehicle matching the description of the one involved in the 911 call in the 300 block of North Longwood. Johnson was a passenger in the vehicle, along with a female driver and another male occupant.
Police reportedly blocked the vehicle into a parking lot and approached the vehicle with guns drawn. The first two passengers then reportedly surrendered, leaving Johnson alone in the vehicle.
Johnson then allegedly leaned toward the passenger side of the vehicle, which is when Soria opened fire, killing Johnson.
Soria, an 18-year veteran of the force, was cleared of any wrongdoing after a grand jury found his use of deadly force to be justified.
Logan Bell, 18, was shot and killed by Rockford police Oct. 11 after police responded to a 911 call from a family member of Bell’s saying the teen was in possession of a handgun and was a danger to himself.
According to police, Bell prompted pursuing officers to shoot after he raised his gun.
Logan Bell, a relative of former Rockford Ald. Victory Bell, reportedly suffered from bipolar disorder.
The shooting remains under investigation by the Winnebago County Integrity Task Force, and the three officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave, per department policy.
Demetrius Bennett, 31, was shot and killed by police Nov. 1 after police escorted Bennett’s wife, Amanda Armbruster, to their home at 1811 Montague St., at her request.
The incident began with a domestic dispute between Bennett and his wife. Armbruster had gone to the Winnebago County Justice Center shortly before 6 a.m., Nov. 1, to ask for assistance in retrieving her personal items from the home. When police arrived at the residence, Bennett answered the door and then reportedly went to pick up one of his two children. Police then asked Bennett to put the child down, and he eventually gave the child up. Armbruster then took both children out of the home.
According to Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato (D), Bennett then grabbed a knife, and officers responded by spraying him with pepper spray. Bennett wiped the pepper spray from his face and then made a “move,” according to Bruscato. Four Rockford police officers then shot Bennett. The officers — Mark Danner, Ryan Marko, James Presley and Nolan Walker — are on administrative leave, per department policy.
Initial reports indicated Bennett used one of his children as a shield when he allegedly held a knife at officers, but that report has since been found to be false.
Investigation into the shooting death of Bennett will be conducted by the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s Office because of a conflict of interest within the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office. Deputy State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross has notified Bruscato that an aunt on her father’s side of the family is Bennett’s grandmother.
City’s response to Nov. 19 march
Editor’s note: The City of Rockford issued the following press release Nov. 19 in response to the march.
MAYOR MORRISSEY RESPONDS TO MARCH EXPRESSING CONCERNS OVER POLICE USE OF FORCE
In response to the concerns raised by the community members in attendance at today’s first amendment protest, which started at 518 N. Court St. and gathered briefly in the Rockford City Hall Lobby, Mayor Larry Morrissey stated: “The city fully supports the free expression of community concerns through walks and marches. We are empathetic to the concerns voiced today and will continue to support our citizens and our officers.”
Mayor Morrissey continued to state: “Since August 2009, the City of Rockford Police Department has enhanced many of their policing initiatives bringing the department to a higher level of professionalism. This has not been an easy task. We appreciate the tremendous undertaking of leadership that Chief Epperson and the entire police department have pursued over the past three years as they have enhanced policy, protocol, training and community outreach.”
The Rockford Police Department, key members of the city administration and community partners including the Ministers Fellowship Group, the NAACP, LULAC and the YWCA have been participating in a Community Mediation program since late 2009. The Community Mediation program is conducted with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice and is facilitated by Kenith Bergeron, Senior Conciliation Specialist, Community Relations Service; United States Department of Justice. The city has continued to work actively with Mr. Bergeron; recent communication with community partners and the Department of Justice will hopefully result in a community compact that will provide a structure for resolution of community concerns and improvement in police-community relations.
In addition to the participation in the Community Mediation, the Rockford Police Department has implemented a number of best practice safeguards addressing Use of Force.
Specifically, the department’s efforts include the following:
Re-Accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) — The department complies with more than 400 professional policing standards such as use of force, training, recruiting, crime deployment, personnel and legal constitutional standards. Very few police agencies are accredited. The department received its second three-year re-accreditation this summer.
Policy Development — The department continues to work on the 35 policy recommendations from the Independent Assessment Monitoring Report. The policy recommendations are nearly completed.
Winnebago County Integrity Task Force — The City of Rockford Police Department participates in a multi-jurisdictional task force, which investigates fatal police shootings and serious police-related involved incidents. The Integrity Task Force was formed to allow outside police agencies to investigate a fatal police shooting and serious police-involved incidents of the affected agency. The purpose of the Integrity Task Force is to allow a third-party police agency to assume the investigation of a police serious incident. The Integrity Task Force entails non-Rockford Police personnel to assume investigative responsibility of the investigation. Allowing other police personnel to investigate the incident provides neutrality and transparency of the investigation.
Administrative Review — The police department has implemented an Administrative Review of all fatal police shootings and serious uses of force along with other significant operational incidents. The Administrative Review was an IAM policy recommendation. The Administrative Review consists of reviewing policy, practice and process of each incident.
Force Board Review — The police department conducts a Use of Force Review Board on fatal shootings and those incidents that result in serious injury. The Review Board examines the criminal and administrative review aspects in terms of department protocol, practice, policy and procedure.
Training — The police department has enhanced its internal training to provide simulation training to all officers on various force encounters. The simulator allows for in-class training on multiple uses of force against officers and then critiques each force encounter with the officer. Over 1/3 of the agency personnel are trained by Janet Wattles Mental Health Center (Rosecrance) on Critical Incident Training (CIT) with a robust 40-hour classroom/role-playing curriculum. Additionally, all personnel are trained in eight hours of CIT. CIT allows officers to manage mental health issues with those individuals officers come into contact. The department also received Cultural Awareness Training with national expert Dr. Aaron Thompson, who instructs police departments across the country.
Clergy Academy — The police department conducted a 20-hour session with local clergy on the operational procedures of the department in areas such as policy, protocol, prevention, arrests, community policing, complaint in-take and investigations.
Mayor Morrissey concluded: “While the work of maintaining excellence is ongoing, our community can take pride in their police department and the consistent efforts to improve that organization. Those efforts will continue to receive my support, and I trust the support of our city council and the entire community.”
From the Nov. 21-27, 2012, issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
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