Bloomington Police Department

The Citiesscape Pt. 3: Normal Traffic Stop Data Shows Major Racial 'Inequities'

Data on traffic stops in eight Central Illinois cities show significant “inequities” in police treatment of motorists of different races and ethnic origins, according to Illinois State University’s “A Community Report on Intolerance, Segregation, Accessibility, Inclusion, Progress, and Improvement.”

The new report, requested by Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal, notes blacks are stopped more often and arrested more often than their share of the Bloomington-Normal population would suggest. Vehicles driven by blacks are searched more often, and yet drugs are more often found in vehicles of white drivers.

In their study of race and the local criminal justice system, the ISU team focused on disparities in traffic stops and incarceration in the McLean County Jail.  Normal had 19,637 traffic stops out of 72,836 for all eight cities examined. That was 27 percent of all documented stops in the Twin Cities, Champaign, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, and Urbana.

Using 2015 Illinois Traffic Stop Data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, students investigated whether disparities in this portion of the criminal justice system exist, specifically for Bloomington-Normal.  Normal police stop vehicles at a far higher rate than police in Springfield or Peoria – ISU student researchers stated “the pattern is quite stark.” Without taking into account severity of charge, blacks who are arrested spend more time in the jail.

traffic stop chart.jpg

“We find that vehicles with black drivers are far more likely to be searched, compared to those with white or Hispanic drivers,” researchers concluded. “This is true in Bloomington, Normal, and the six other cities; however, Normal has a much smaller portion of vehicles searched relative to their large number of stops.

“Though searched more often, vehicles driven by blacks are less likely to have drugs or drug paraphernalia. We find that blacks spend more time in the jail than whites or Hispanic individuals. We also find that men spend more time in the jail than women, regardless of whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor.”

The second highest number of traffic stops occurred in Springfield at 15,910. Bloomington Police Department recorded the third highest number, with 9,740 stops. The remaining cities in order from most to least stops are Rockford with 7,095, Champaign with 7,029; Decatur with 4,982; Peoria with 4,784; and Urbana, with 3,659. When Bloomington and Normal are combined, they accounted for 40 percent of all stops in the eight cities.

Since 1999, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice) periodically has conducted the Police-Public Contact Survey to determine the nature of this contact and discrepancies in race, gender, citations, use of force, etc.  The Bureau distributes surveys to people aged 16 and older, and asks them to describe their most recent contact with law enforcement within the past 12 months.

The Bureau noted a nationwide decline from 2002-2008 in the total number of persons who had contact with police. However, for those who had contact with law enforcement there were still discrepancies between whites, blacks, and Latinos. The number of Latinos drivers stopped by police between 2002 and 2008 increased 28 percent, although there was no difference for white and black drivers during the same period.

 In 2008, blacks were more likely to have contact with law enforcement than whites, asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders. The survey also inquires whether those stopped by law enforcement felt the police behaved appropriately: Blacks and Latinos were less likely than whites to feel this was true. Similarly, black drivers were less likely to feel there was a legitimate reason for police stopping them.

Blacks were significantly more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than Latino and white drivers, and police arrested blacks at a higher rate than whites during traffic stops. Although no comparison was made in relation to the percentage of searches that resulted in finding anything illegal, only one out of five people searched felt police had a legitimate reason to do so, across racial lines.

The Bureau also analyzed the use of force during traffic stops. Although in 2002 and 2005, whites were less likely than blacks and Latinos to experience the threat of force, the 2008 study indicated that only blacks were more likely to experience force. In addition to experiencing more frequent traffic stops, blacks also experienced more frisks and searches.

Racial disparity was found to be greater in frisks than in general searches; racial disparity frisks are contingent on a community’s racial composition, and a driver’s race does not correlate with the productivity of searches.

“Racial profiling in law enforcement is a problem due to racial stereotypes, reflecting the ‘legitimizing myths’ that perpetuate social dominance and hierarchies,” the ISU team stated. “. . . Officers were more likely to stop someone depending on location (i.e., if a black was in a predominately white area, or if a white person was in a predominately black area).”

After standardizing stop data for population size, the degree to which Normal ranked highest in traffic stops -- after accounting for population size, Normal’s frequency of stops is more than twice that of the other seven cities.

In Bloomington, Latinos are disproportionately more likely to be stopped, where in Normal, Latinos are disproportionately less likely to be stopped, given their share of the population.

It is uncommon for officers to request searches from motorists in Bloomington or Normal, and the likelihood of such requests does not seem vary by race or ethnicity. Of requests for searches, though, blacks drivers are far more likely to decline the request. In the end, however, black drivers are most likely to have a search conducted.

In Bloomington, white drivers had a 5.6 percent chance of a search being conducted, Latino drivers had a 8.6 percent chance, and black drivers had a 13.0 percent chance of a search. A similar pattern emerged in Normal: White drivers had a 1.0 percent chance of having a search conducted, Latino drivers a 2.2 percent chance, and blacks had a 3.4 percent chance of having a search conducted.

For all eight cities combined, white drivers had a 4.2 percent chance of being searched, Latino drivers a 6.1 percent chance, and black drivers had a 12.4 percent of being searched.

“Although there is a higher chance of being pulled over in Normal, there is greater likelihood of being searched in Bloomington,” ISU researchers reported.

In Bloomington, while white drivers had the lowest chance of their car being searched, they had the highest percent of being found in possession of drugs. In Normal, black drivers had the highest percent of being found in possession of drugs, followed by white drivers. Latino drivers showed the lowest percentage of drug possession in either city.

In both Bloomington and Normal, students found white drivers to have the highest percentage of drug paraphernalia possession, followed by black drivers, again, despite the higher rate of searches on vehicles driven by blacks.

Review Board Push Triumph of Collaboration

The campaign to create a new civilian police review board demonstrated not only the power of public engagement but also the strength local groups were able to exert working together, according to Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal participants in the process

Photo by Lewis Merien, The Pantagraph

Photo by Lewis Merien, The Pantagraph

The city of Bloomington is looking for people who want to serve on the new Public Safety and Community Relations Board (PSCRB). Bloomington aldermen approved board creation Monday. Mayoral appointees will advise the police chief and help settle disputes over complaints against Bloomington officers.

NIOTBN was one of several diverse community groups convened by McLean County YWCA that worked with Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal to help make the PSCRB a reality. Other alliance partners included ACLU of Central Illinois, Bloomington Normal Branch of NAACP, Central Illinois Pride Health Center, Illinois People’s Action, McLean County League of Women Voters, and Prairie Pride Coalition.

"I think we're off to a good start," said NIOTBN member Dontae Latson, director of the McLean County YWCA. Latson maintained "we are not allowing ourselves to fall victim to the national narrative" of Black Lives Matter and other community interests taking an anti-police stance -- "It's just not true."

The alliance' next step is to "assure that the process doesn't get watered down," lose its central focus, or become "stacked" with members of a single viewpoint, he suggested.

Camille Taylor, who helped represent NIOTBN in the alliance, noted the challenges in alliance members working together amid varying philosophies and approaches. "In theory, working with other groups is a great idea," Taylor mused, but maintaining an individual group's focus can be difficult "when not every group at the table has the same mission."

"You have to keep your eye on the prize, and recognize that every group at the table has its own identity," she urged.

Mary Aplington, who serves as co-chairman of NIOTBN's Education Subcommittee with Taylor, saw the tenor of Monday's council meeting itself as evidence of the success of community communication and collaboration. While the meeting drew a large citizen gathering, Aplington noted the Bloomington Police officers working crowd control "did a wonderful job of being respectful and sensitive."

NIOTBN Steering Committee member Mary Aplington,

Those interested in applying for the PSCRB should submit an application by Aug. 11. Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner will share the full list of applicants with aldermen, who will be asked to share their top three recommendations with him, Renner said. Two-thirds of aldermen must vote to approve Renner’s final seven picks.

Here’s how the board will be structured:

  • Members shall serve for a three-year term; however, at the inception of the board, two members shall be appointed for a one-year term, two members for a two-year term, and three members for a three-year term, so that terms are staggered.
  • The chair and a vice-chair of the board shall be selected amongst the members of the PSCRB.
  • No person with a criminal felony conviction shall be eligible to serve on the PSCRB.
  • No city employee may be appointed to the Board, nor shall any member be a current employee of, contracted by or have any official affiliation, whether current or former, with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.

PSCRB 'Just the Beginning' -- Y Mission Impact Director

Local civil rights leaders claimed victory Monday as the Bloomington City Council voted to create a new civilian board to advise the police chief—a step that supporters hope will improve how the city deals with complaints against its officers.

The vote was 8-1, with Ward 8 Alderman Diana Hauman the only “no” vote. Hauman, who represents the city’s southeast side, said she gathered input from many members of the community but still had concerns about the new board’s purpose and how its members would be selected and trained and what they’d be tasked with doing.

“I’ve given this eight months of thought, inquiry, research, and sleepless nights,” she said.

Hauman said she was disappointed that so many of the board’s advocates “said basically negative things about our police” during recent forums, including a 35-minute public comment session that opened Monday’s meeting.

“I heard very few people say thank you,” Hauman said. “I have a feeling that our police are being profiled just as members of the alliance (pushing for the board) indicate that police are profiling people of color. I’m sorry, but that offends me as a person.”

Monday’s vote caps a months-long effort by local organizations such as Black Lives Matter lobbying for creation of a board. It came in response to growing tensions in Bloomington between police and many members of the minority community, some of which were documented in a May report.

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner initially opposed creation of the board as other Illinois communities have done, but he appeared to soften his stance as public debate advanced.

Bloomington officer Stephen Brown, representing the police union (PBPA Unit 21), told aldermen before Monday’s vote that he’s in favor of building a better relationship between rank-and-file police and minority groups. He denied that Bloomington police target people based on their race.

But he said supporters of the new board have shifted their agenda and now want an outsized role in shaping policing policy. He questioned why they didn’t support controversial efforts to open a so-called police “community house” when it came before aldermen in January.

“It seems that we’re being painted as racist in this town,” Brown said, alleging that some who support the board want only to make life more difficult for police. “You have to ask yourself, as citizens of this town, do you want law enforcement’s job to be more complicated, or easier? Because if it’s easier, you’re going to be safer.”

Not In Our Town, YWCA McLean County, and the ACLU of Illinois joined Black Lives Matter in advocating for the board. Many spoke passionately at council meetings in recent months.

“This is just the beginning,” Jennifer Carrillo, director of mission impact at the YWCA, told a crowd of board supporters—many wearing Black Lives Matter shirts—as they cheered outside City Hall after the vote. Carrillo urged them to consider applying to serve on the board.

How Board Will Work

The seven-member Public Safety and Community Relations Board (PSCRB) is “purely advisory” to the city manager and police chief. Felons and police officers won’t be able to serve on the board—a controversial decision that civil rights advocates, aldermen, and board opponents wrestled over.

Among the PSCRB’s formal duties will be adding a “resident perspective” to the evaluation of civilian complains against police, as well as educating the community all the ways citizens to make formal and informal complaints. Members of the board will be appointed by the mayor with the with the approval of the Bloomington City Council by a two-thirds vote of all aldermen currently serving.

Its formal power is limited. The city’s police union contract does specifically limits “re-investigations and prohibit(s) the compulsion of police officer testimony in front of citizen review boards,” the city says.

“This is not an oversight board,” said Mayor Tari Renner. “It’s an advisory board.”

Ward 7 Scott Black said he wants to periodically check on the effectiveness of the board in the years to come.

“My focus right now is to make sure that folks feel that there’s an institution that will help them be heard,” said Black. “This document is the result of a lot of people working very hard toward a common goal.”

Bloomington Council Passes Community Relations Board Plan

During the Bloomington City Council meeting on Monday, July 24, the council passed (8-1) the ‘Public Safety and Community Relations Board’ (PSCRB) in front of a packed house of hundreds of supporters. The advocacy originated from grassroots activists and community organizations who worked tirelessly for this effort to come to fruition. Without them, none of this would have been possible.

The most vocal advocates of the ordinance was an alliance of community organizations convened by YWCA McLean County. The organizations include ACLU of Central Illinois, Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal, Bloomington Normal Branch of NAACP, Central Illinois Pride Health Center, Illinois People’s Action, McLean County League of Women Voters, Not in Our Town Bloomington-Normal and Prairie Pride Coalition.

“Police accountability and transparency is key to improved community relations,” said Ky Ajayi, Black Lives Matter representative. “The establishment of the PSCRB is an excellent step in that direction.”

With the passage of this ordinance, residents will have the opportunity to submit their complaint to the PSCRB, which will then be routed to the Bloomington Police Department, instead of filing directly with the department. The police department will still conduct complaint investigations as they always have, but with this board, a resident will be able to request a review by the PSCRB to ensure proper protocols were followed. In addition, the board will promote alternate avenues available to residents to make complaints, assist in clarifying and improving procedures related to complaints and assure access to these policies and procedures are open and transparent.

“The Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP is pleased to see the passage of this ordinance,” said Quincy Cummings, president of the local NAACP chapter. “The transparency provided by establishing this board will encourage more people to comfortably file complaints.”

Another important feature of the board is the ability to recommend changes to the police department. The PSCRB will be empowered to conduct community outreach and recommend necessary policy changes to improve police and community interactions. 

“The establishment of the board is a huge first step towards becoming a community in which police and residents can trust one another,” said D. Dontae Latson, CEO of YWCA McLean County. “We still have a lot of work to do—and this board is only the beginning—but we are committed to playing a role in the process of building and healing community relations.”

Throughout the city council’s public discussion on this issue, which took place over the course of several special sessions, countless stories and testimonies were shared by community members who have been directly impacted by what many describe as ‘disproportionate policing.’ Many cited a recent report by the Stevenson Center, which indicated that in Bloomington, black people are twice as likely to be pulled over by police; and once stopped, are over twice as likely to be searched compared to white people. These residents showed a unified and steadfast support for the creation of board to address these issues.

BPD Embracing Aspects of 'Community Policing'

Jon Norton


The advocacy group Black Lives Matter BloNo has been asking the Bloomington Police Department to adopt "Community Policing" rather than what it characterizes as a "Broken Windows" approach to policing. Broken Windows theory argues that focusing on small crimes such as vandalism and toll-jumping helps create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, which leads to less serious crimes being committed.

Community policing has a number of core tenants, including assigning officers to specific geographic locations over long periods of time, even decades. It also involves requiring officers to walk or bike their beats as much as possible, and to emphasize problem solving over reactionary policing. Bloomington police chief Brendan Heffner said his department employs all of those tenants, albeit in a limited fashion. For example, he said officers have assigned patrol areas every time they are out.

"We have officers that bid (per their shifts) their patrol areas, so they are actuallyin certain areas for long periods of time, so that helps," said Heffner. "What I think the public doesn't realize is, say, you're an officer on the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift, or the day shift and you change shifts, your patrol area might change as well."

So those officers may essentially patrol a neighborhood for up to a year, which proponents of community policing might say is short of the desired "years" or even "decades" where an officer can really get to know an area and its residents. As for foot patrols, Heffner said his offers do get out on both foot and bike, and said he would like to increase the time they spend out of their cars in the coming months. He also said officers on foot increases their response time when dispatched to other crimes.

"We encourage officers to get out of their cars when they can to talk and engage with people" said Heffner. "Sometimes people are a little taken back because they've only seen or heard things and never had an officer say hello. And we have some officers who are a little shy about that because of the atmosphere, they don't know how to be treated."

Heffner says he tells his officers to be consistent, in that consistency, professionalism, and being genuine reflects on the officer, and those overtures comes back to the officer. 

One of the criticisms of community policing nationwide is that it gets embraced at the upper levels of law enforcement agencies, but the concept itself, such as how how to talk with or approach citizens while on foot patrol doesn't get down to the street level officer. A YouTube video from two years ago filmed by a man walking in west Bloomington has made its rounds on social media. It shows the man and and another interacting with Bloomington police officer who had stopped his car after noticing the two walking. The man filming immediately asked if they were being detained or under arrest as the officer walked up to them. They explained in a direct manner that they don't answer questions from police. The officer explained he wanted to talk with them and get to know them under the guise of community policing. The conversation quickly devolved into the pedestrian clearly stating he didn't trust police, and the officer continuing to talk with the pedestrian in a belittling manor.  Heffner said he has been aware of the video for awhile.

"I actually told that officer 'do not stop doing what you were trying to do.' That obviously was not the best contact, but that is not how everyone feels. If you want to know if our officers try to get out there and do that ... they do," said Heffner.

Acknowledging that the conversation was adversarial from both parties, Heffner said his officers have to act in a more professional manor.

"One thing people have to realize is that we are human too. But we try to be above that. Can we do better? Yes we can, and we strive to do that, and we learn from it. And I hope people understand no matter what you think of the video, it was one video. Because we have a LOT of positive contacts with the public," said Heffner.

Click "Listen" below to hear Heffner talk more about how the Bloomington Police Department approached community policing, including his reaction to data released last year showing blacks stopped and frisked more often than whites during the first six months of 2016, despite finding less drugs or illegal weapons on blacks than whites.

BLM B/N Challenges Substation Plan; 'Accountability Meeting' Thursday

Colleen Reynolds


The group Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal asked its members this weekend to call Bloomington aldermen this weekend to delay a vote on whether to open a police substation on West Jefferson Street. BLM leaders say the community has not been properly engaged and there is no consensus that a substation would be welcome.  They want to delay a vote for more conversation but initially view the substation as an increased police presence that, "violates any commitment to community policing, " according to a release issued late Friday afternoon.

"Many in west Bloomington are concerned there is a disproportionate police presence in their neighborhood." The group acknowledges, "While some community organizations have been part of this effort, many in the community are just finding out about this for the first time."  The house is owned by Mid-Central Community Action which provides a variety of social services, including affordable housing for single adults.

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner said earlier this week the substation would improve community relations and safety. "(It) will reduce officers' response time, increase police visibility, and provide officers the opportunity to meet and collaborate with community members," he said.  Heffner is under fire for what some members of the local chapter say is a lack of efforts to include all residents in the decision-making process regarding how their neighborhoods are protected.

Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal is hosting what it's calling "A Community Accountability Meeting" it requested with Chief Heffner scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15 at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church at 801 W. Market.  The meeting is open to the public.

NAACP, BPD Maintain 'Open Channels'; NAACP Chief Urges Reporting of Suspected Racial Profiling

To fix the flaws or abuse in the system, citizens must be willing to use the system’s resources to make their voices known in official channels, according to a local leader of the African-American community. Bloomington’s police chief concurs with him on the need for “open channels” between law enforcement and citizens.

At Monday’s vigil commemorating nationwide victims of recent violence and racism, Quincy Cummings, head of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP, emphasized the need for those who feel they have experienced police mistreatment or discrimination to come forward. Citizens and local police officials joined in the event, and Cummings noted top cops must be aware a problem exists to adequately address it.

In the end, he held “we have to hold ourselves accountable for being the community we want to see.” He argued that thanks to cooperative efforts, “we have the ear of local law enforcement.”

“The problem is, a lot of times, people don’t complain,” Cummings said. “In order to hold police accountable, you have to go and fill out a formal police complaint. Even if that means calling the NAACP to go with you to do it, whether it means involving the ACLU, whatever, that has to happen.

“Police are looking at data, and if they’re looking at complaints and seeing a low volume of complaints for the year, then they don’t see a problem. It doesn’t matter what people are saying on the street. This is what we have to do.”

NAACP has worked extensively through “open channels” with local law enforcement in part through the Minority and Police Partnership of McLean County. The Bloomington Police Department is a charter member of MAPP, which was developed with NIOTBN support, and in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore and a local NIOTBN/NAACP community/police forum in early 2015, the BPD launched annual public training sessions to demonstrate and gather citizen input on real-world police procedures and ramped up minority officer recruitment.

A sign of the progress the BPD has made in the communities was last night’s standing ovation for local police at the First Christian Church vigil. BPD Chief Brendan Heffner hailed Monday’s event and its commemoration of officers and citizens alike, arguing “any loss of life is tragic.”

“The community realizes this,” Heffner said. “We don’t always know the reasons for certain things, but any time we’re together, we’re communicating, it’s always positive.

“Having that dialogue will also help us if something occurs, cause (the community knows) we’ve done that. We didn’t just get together now – we’ve had ongoing dialogue. We may agree to disagree, but we’ve had a dialogue, and we’ve worked together for what we believe is best for the community.”

The Dallas police shootings were “a very stark reminder of what we face,” the chief acknowledged. Today’s officer must possess “the right mindset to be prepared for anything and still do our job in a professional manner,” he stressed.

Illinois’ data collection law established a multi-year statewide study of traffic stops to collect data to identify racial bias. Consistent with and in addition to state-mandated officer data collection, the BPD collected information on passenger race and gender data, specific offense, exact location of the traffic stop, vehicle registration number, parole or probation status of the driver, and expanded racial categories.  

Here are some further insights on profiling and data collection from the BPD: 

Q.  What is racial profiling?

A.  Profiling is defined as the detention, interdiction, or other disparate treatment of any individual on the basis of racial, ethnic, age, gender, or sexual orientation of that individual. 

Q. Why did the Bloomington Police Department collect more data than state law mandates?

A.  As allowed by the law, we collect additional data to enhance anticipated future statisticalanalysis.  More and richer data increases the opportunity for deeper analysis, resulting in more reliable conclusions.   

Q.  What do I do if I think I am a victim of racial profiling by Bloomington Police?

A.  Pick up a copy of the Bloomington PoliceDepartment’s Citizen Complaint Form at the police facility at 305 S. East Street in downtown Bloomington.  The forms are also available from the City Clerk’s office at Bloomington City Hall. 

Q.  What can I do to help identify and prevent racial profiling?

A.  Be patient, cooperate with law enforcement when stopped for a traffic violation, and support statistically reliable data analysis.  Report suspected racial profiling and encourage recruitment of minority police officers.  Most importantly, obey traffic laws and drive safely. 

Q.  Who do I contact if I have questions about data collection or racial profiling?

A.  The Bloomington Police Department, Office of Public Affairs, off the second floor lobby of the police facility at 305 S. East Street. Call (309) 434-2355 or inquire online at .

Second Law Enforcement Summit April 19

Join local law enforcement agencies for the 2nd Annual Law Enforcement Educational Summit, April 19, 2016 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Illinois State University’s Horton Field House, 180 N. Adelaide St., Normal.

The event is open to the public -- those 16 and over will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of training simulations (see map below).

Last year's inaugural summit in Bloomington offered residents the opportunity to learn how officers are trained to interact with civilians in common law enforcement situations, and for local police agencies to gain insight into community perspectives.

The event and others followed on the February 2015 Breaking Barriers police-community dialogue in Bloomington, co-sponsored by Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal.



NIOTBN Trumpets Message at B/N Trump Rally

Today's appearance of a controversial presidential candidate in the Twin Cities afforded Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal the opportunity to amplify its message of inclusiveness.

During Republican candidate Donald Trump's campaign rally at Central Illinois Regional Airport, several individuals and community organizations concerned about some of Trump's campaign comments. NIOTBN representatives gathered at the site according to Steering Committee Member Mike Matejka "not to challenge Donald Trump, but to affirm our values of a safe, inclusive community."

The group pledged "solidarity with all who struggle for justice and equality in a non-violent way and to affirm the value of all people in our community, regardless of their economic class, race, ability, gender or sexual orientation."

"I was so proud of Bloomington-Normal today with the Trump Rally," said NIOTBN charter member Marc Miller, who participated in the group's presentation. "It was peaceful throughout. Those of us who turned out for Not In Our Town stood diligently and testified with our silence and our present for our non-partisan message of stopping hate, addressing bullying, and creating a safe community for all."

The Pantagraph, WMBD-TV, and the international Reuters wire service interviewed NIOTBN representatives at the rally site. NIOTBN's post regarding the rally and community response by late afternoon had been viewed by 3,500 people, garnering 142 likes and 20 shares.

The Twin Cities rally followed Trump's cancellation of a planned rally in Chicago in the wake of major protests by a variety of groups.

"Today’s rally has concluded and the crowd is clearing peacefully. No significant issues were reported, and no arrests have been made," the Bloomington Police Department said in a Sunday statement. "Thank you to all the law enforcement agencies in attendance for their hard work and dedication protecting public safety and free speech."

Sara: Coffee With a Cop Refreshes Community Trust

Officer Sara Mayer

Public Relations

Bloomington Police Department

Engaging our community is a top priority for the Bloomington Police Department. We share the community’s concerns and make every effort to address them. Coffee with a Cop has done wonders for community trust and partnership building.

One of the keys to Coffee with a Cop’s success is that is removes the physical barriers that routinely exist between police officers and community members, allowing for the relaxed, one-on-one interactions which are the necessary foundation of partnerships.

Our thanks goes out to the Coffee Hound for hosting (the March 4) Coffee with a Cop, providing free coffee, and staying open late for the event. The event provided a friendly atmosphere and helped strengthen relationships between police officers and the members of our community.

BPD Testing for New Officers; March 3 Deadline

The Bloomington Police Department is testing for new officers in late March, and BPD Chief Brendan Heffner hopes soon to see new and diverse faces serving the community.

Cut-off date to apply is March 3. 

"Please spread the word, as it's time step it up for diversity," stressed Heffner, who stepped up efforts to recruit new officers, including minority patrol officers, roughly a year ago following a local Breaking Barriers police-community dialogue.

People can go to to apply online.

Local Law Enforcement and Minority Recruitment

According to the Pantagraph, here's a breakdown of the current number of minorities, women, and white officers employed by local law enforcement agencies:

  • Bloomington Police Department's full complement is 128 officers, but seven have not been replaced. The 121 current officers include four (3.2 percent) male Latinos and two (1.6 percent) African-American male officers. There are 112 (93 percent) white male and three (2.4 percent) white female officers.
  • Among Normal Police Department's 80 officers, there are two African-American males (2.5 percent), one Hispanic female (1.25 percent) and one Asian male (1.25 percent). Sixty-eight officers (85 percent) are white males and eight (10 percent) are white females. NPD is in the process of hiring one officer.
  • The  McLean County Sheriff's Department has 53 officer positions, with 50 filled: 48 (96 percent) are white males; there are two (4 percent) white females. That's an increase of one female officer since last February.
  • Illinois State University's Police Department has 27 officers. Three (11 percent) are African-American males, 18 (67 percent) are white males and six (22 percent) are white females. 

Demographically, McLean County is 80.5 percent white, 7.7 percent African-American, 5.2 percent Asian, 4.7 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data. The county is 51.2 percent female.

Cone With a Cop: Dialogue and a Dip

The Bloomington Police Department will host its first Ice Cream With a Cop event Thursday from 4-6 p.m. at Carl's Ice Cream (601 West Locust, Bloomington)

Officers from BPD will meet, talk, and eat ice cream with adults and children in an effort to field residents' questions, concerns, and views and get to know their neighbors. The event is a follow-up to spring's inaugural Coffee With a Cop get-together at Normal's Dunkin' Donuts.

Carl's Ice Cream will provide free small cones to kids 12 and under during the event.

Police Education Summit: Simulating the Streets

Here are some photos from last week's McLean County police departments' Education Summit aimed at simulating for the public how officers handle interactions on the street. The program, held at the Bloomington National Guard Armory, followed on the heels of a police-community forum and Coffee With A Cop get-together, all designed to address issues associated with recent law enforcement controversy in several cities. (Photos courtesy of the Bloomington Police Department)

Education Summit April 29; New Youth Intervention Specialist on Board

As local law enforcement agencies prep next week to show how they interact with the community, efforts to keep youths from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system reportedly have gained momentum with the introduction of a youth intervention specialist for the Bloomington Police Department.

Michael Donnelly, who works as community impact manager with the United Way of McLean County, will work part time with police to identify and mentor at-risk youth.

Mayor Tari Renner said the city is not alone in the challenges posed by youths who get into trouble. Calling youth crime "one of the top social issues" among mayors, Renner said a $25,000 grant from State Farm will allow Donnelly to work with youths and their families to address small matters before they become bigger ones.

A similar program funded by State Farm has been in place at the Normal Police Department since 2008.

BPD Chief Brendan Heffner said Donnelly will work with the agency's four school resource officers and McLean County juvenile probation staff to help students who need guidance.

"We know we won't save every young person we come in contact with," said Donnelly, but building a bridge that serves police, families and social services is a positive first step.

Donnelly's prior experience working with youth through several community programs makes him a good fit, said Heffner.

Retired 11th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Elizabeth Robb attended the announcement at BPD and said Donnelly "knows the families and the system," agreeing having a person who knows how to talk to youths about the consequences of their mistakes will provide the community with a much-needed resource.

McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers also applauded the city for obtaining the grant and for hiring Donnelly.

"Its not unusual for adults in the criminal justice system to have a history of police contact as a juvenile. A lot of what law enforcement does is reactive. It's great to see someone working on prevention," said Chambers.

City officials did not have an estimate for the number of youths Donnelly could see during the year he will work under the grant.  With the onset of warm weather when youths are typically more active, he could be busy, Heffner admitted.

The city plans to seek a renewal of the grant after its reviews statistics on the impact Donnelly's work has on police interaction with at-risk youth.

Not Loving It? Have "Coffee With a Cop"

In an ongoing effort to build a constructive dialogue with the community, McLean County police departments will share java and jawbone with residents March 13.

Representatives from Bloomington, Normal, and Illinois State University police departments and the McLean County Sheriff's Department will participate in Coffee with a Cop -- an extension of a national program -- from 7 to 10 a.m. that Friday at McDonald's, 525 Brock Drive, Bloomington.

McDonald's will provide free coffee to all who attend.

Coffee with a Cop was started by a California police department in 2011 as part of its community policing effort, and today, some 175 communities in 36 states offer Coffee with a Cop programs. Sara Mayer, public affairs officer with the Bloomington police, maintains the relaxed sitdown can improve community relations.

"You don't call 911 when everything is going well," Mayer notes. "This allows a one-on-one, builds partnerships and trust."

ISU police have met with students in a similar fashion for a couple of years, a few times each semester. "It's a good opportunity to see us in more of an approachable venue ... in this case, a relaxed environment," Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said.

Police and the Percentages

Nationally, African-Americans make up 11 percent, and Latinos make up 9 percent of police agencies in communities with more than 250,000 residents. How do the Twin Cities and McLean County fare?

The Bloomington Police Department is ramping up efforts to add diversity in new officers. Here's a breakdown of the number of minorities, women, and white officers employed with local law enforcement agencies, compiled by The Pantagraph:

• Among Normal Police Department's 83 officers, there are two African-American officers, one Hispanic female and one Asian male. Seventy officers (84 percent) are white males and nine (11 percent) are white females. (The NPD currently is over its full complement of 81 officers because several are about to retire).

• Bloomington Police's full complement is 128 officers, but four have not been replaced. The 124 officers include four (3.2 percent) male Latinos and two (1.6 percent) African-American male officers, including Chief Brendan Heffner. A third African-American officer recently retired after 30 years. There are 115 (92.7 percent) white male and three (2.4 percent) white female officers.

• None of McLean County sheriff's patrol deputies are minorities. The department has 53 officer positions, but only 44 are filled: 43 are white males; there is one white female.

• Illinois State University's Police Department has 27 officers. Three (11 percent) are African-American males, 18 (67 percent) are white males and six (22 percent) are white females. 

Demographically, McLean County is 80.5 percent white; 7.7 percent African-American, 5.2 percent Asian, 4.7 percent Hispanic or Latino and 51.2 percent female, according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data.

Other area police departments have a similar shortage of minority officers.

Of the Champaign Police Department's 123 officers, 99 (80.5 percent) are white males, 10 (8 percent) are white females, three (2.4 percent) are Hispanic males, one is an Hispanic female, two (or 1.6 percent) are Asian males and eight (6.5 percent), including Chief Anthony Cobb, are African-American males.

Of the 241 Springfield police officers, 195 (81 percent are white males; 11 (4.6 percent) are African-American males; five (2 percent) are Hispanic males; and two are Asian males. Springfield also has 28 (11.6 percent) white female officers.

To explore opportunities in local law enforcement, visit the Bloomington Police recruitment page at