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 .

B/N NAACP Head Named Citizen of the Year

The Pantagraph

Quincy Cummings, president of the Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP and a charter member of the Minority and Police Partnership, was named Normal's Citizen of the Year on Thursday.

The Pantagraph

The Pantagraph

"Quincy's tireless efforts to improve this community for all citizens is exemplary," said Mayor Chris Koos. "His dedication to the cause of equality for all residents of Normal and McLean County stands out along with those of the Citizens of the Year who came before him."

Recently, Cummings has been working with Normal and Bloomington to help with the recruitment of minority employees.

"He wasn't critical; he offered suggestions," said Koos.

Cummings, who was clearly surprised at the announcement, said he was speechless. 

"It's definitely an honor; it's definitely not expected," he said.

Cummings, who received the 2013 Normal Human Relations Commission Martin Luther King Jr. Award, said: "The work I do is not to get awards or ink in the paper. It's what I truly believe is right for the community. While I'm here, I will do what I must to make it in better shape then when I found it."

He has lived in Normal for 22 years, first coming to the community to attend Illinois State University. He has worked at State Farm for 14 years, currently serving as a business analyst.

Cummings said Normal and Bloomington have been very receptive to suggestions to attract a diverse pool of employees.

"From the mayor down, they're reaching out to us," he said. "I think in the next three to five years, there will be more diversity."

He said one of the first changes that needs to be made is the perception of police, especially in light of recent happenings around the nation. 

"We've got to change the perception and also change the culture from within," he said.

The local NAACP branch is working with students studying criminal justice at Illinois State University and Lincoln College to show them "doing police work is honorable and needed," he said. 

In 2014, the NAACP recognized Cummings' efforts by awarding him the Roy Wilkins Award, the highest statewide honor.

"Quincy's work in the community is to make sure the family portrait of Bloomington-Normal portrays all of its residents," said Chemberly Cummings, Quincy Cummings' wife.

Cummings worked with the local NAACP chapter to establish the Minority and Police Partnership after he was the victim of racial profiling in a traffic stop. He also serves on Normal's Human Relation Commission.

Police-Community Simulations Planned April 29; Heffner Urges Students to 'Comply, then Complain'

Police and the community will simulate public interactions to stimulate dialogue and, ideally, improved community relations.

The Minority and Police Partnership (MAP) with the Bloomington Police Department will conduct an event using real equipment to simulate traffic stops and potentially hostile situations, 5 p.m. April 29 at the Illinois Army National Guard armory, 1616 S. Main St., Bloomington.

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner told NIOT:B/N the simulations should offer the public "a taste of what we do and why," as well as an opportunity for officers and citizens to share mutual perceptions of police-community encounters.

During a discussion last week between students and BPD and ISU police chiefs at Illinois State University,  Heffner stressed “the C's — comply and then complain,” in situations where individuals believe they have been improperly stopped and/or questioned by police. Some 125 people attended the program, which was sponsored by ISU's chapter of the NAACP and the ISU group My Brotha's Keeper.

Kenneth Porter, an adviser to the ISU NAACP, said the program was an opportunity to break down stereotypes either side might have in a neutral environment and for “police to clarify their side of the story.” Porter acknowledged that nationally, "there's been a lot of tension with in the black community in light of the last 12 months," but held that overall, Bloomington-Normal departments "do a pretty good job, compared to the rest of the country or even the state.”

Most of the questions from participants centered on alcohol violations, traffic stops, loud party complaints, and other student concerns.

More than half the students at the event indicated they had had an encounter with the police. But students also volunteered personal stories about positive police encounters, from being given the benefit of the doubt after they were stopped for speeding to receiving extra patrols after an ex-boyfriend refused to stay away.

One student said police arrived when “I was having a 'social event' at my residence.” He said that once he turned down the music and quieted his guests, the police left and “just said, 'Be smarter next time.'”


Camille: Engage, Exchange, and Change

Camille Taylor

WJBC Forum

I read several articles on police community relations to prepare for this forum. Unfortunately, last Friday’s Pantagraph story was in error when it reported that public disclosure of a tape related to the Gabriella Calhoun case prompted several organizations to have a Police-Community Dialogue on January 22 at the City of Refuge Church.

In fact, the Not In Our Town Community Engagement Committee had already been planning the event for about two months. Nonetheless, everything I read supported the steps and the strategies the committee used to organize the event.

Some strategies listed to create positive change in community police relations were as follows:

1. Join with others who want to create change on this issue. The NIOT committee is co-sponsoring the event with the NAACP; the Minority and Police Partnership; the League of Women Voters; the Bloomington, Normal, and ISU police departments; the McLean County Sheriff’s office; the McLean County State’s Attorney; the Bloomington Normal Trades and Labor Assembly (AFL-CIO); and 100 Black Men.

2. Create opportunities for genuine community engagement. This event is open to everyone, and people are encouraged to submit questions prior to the event to the NAACP or via a survey on a website.

3. Address the history of mistrust and disconnection between the community and police. I’m sure the individual police representatives will discuss the history of their presence in our community and

4. Link dialogue to action and community change. Involvement is needed by young people and community leaders, and attendance at the event will include both. Certainly one of the goals for this dialogue will be to influence change where needed and create opportunities to dismantle stereotypes and mistrust.

In the wake of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City it is obvious that poor relations between community members and police can lead to feelings of distrust, anger and fear. Citizens may think the police are prejudiced and have unfair policies. Police may feel blame for all kinds of social problems, and think they don't get credit for doing their jobs.

NIOT Reps Air Police-Citizen Concerns on WTVP

In the aftermath of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal's Mike Matejka and John Elliott (Bloomington NAACP president and Minority and Police Partnership) suggest a dialogue should occur between leaders of law enforcement and the minority community. The pair, along with Peoria's Jamila Wilson, discussed police/community concerns on Thursday's installment of WTVP-PBS' At Issue.

The Minority and Police Partnership is attempting to create a more open dialogue between the police departments and citizens, while the Peoria Police Community Relations Advisory Committee was recently created to foster positive relations and mutual respect between police and the community. Meanwhile, Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner in December announced a new city review of police procedures and community relations, and NIOT:BN this week applauded Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner for publicly condemning one of his officer's racial remark about an African-American stabbing victim (see post below).

McLean County law enforcement agencies are joining with MAPP, NIOT, the NAACP, and others to sponsor a Jan. 2 Breaking Barriers community/police dialogue from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bloomington's City of Refuge Church, 401 E Jefferson. Anonymous questions for police can be sent in advance by visiting

Elliott in the WTVP interview maintained many minority citizens may feel reluctant to publicly "speak up" or file a complaint after they have experienced or suspect police abuse or mistreatment, for fear of official retribution. He feels that younger African-Americans "don't feel like they're being understood."

John Elliott, left, converses with citizens and police at NIOT:BN's December relaunch.

John Elliott, left, converses with citizens and police at NIOT:BN's December relaunch.

Elliott also emphasized the importance of improving diversity within police agencies, suggesting some citizens may feel more comfortable dealing with members of their own community.

"How do we build an atmosphere where that young person says, 'I want to be a police officer -- this is attractive to me, and something where I feel I can proud of that and that this is a service not only to the larger community but also to my particular ethnic (community),'" Matejka stated. 

Peoria's Wilson sees increased interest among individuals who "want to come out and talk about their levels of interactions with police, be they positive or negative."

"I think that's a first step -- the fact that we're having conversations," she said.

For more information or to watch additional episodes of At Issue, visit