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COVID-19 response: What you need to know

How We Serve

Our community-based values of justice, respect, and integrity are designed to create a culture where every officer and civilian staff member at UIPD treats citizens with dignity and fairness.

We understand and acknowledge that, historically, police departments across the country have had a problematic relationship with communities of color, and Black communities in particular. We know that we have room for improvement ourselves.

And we want to be a leader in changing that.

Over the years, we have received a number of recurring questions from our campus community and beyond. We are listening to those questions, concerns and recommendations, and we hope that some of the answers provided below will give you a more complete picture of how we serve the community.

Are police officers at UIPD trained to de-escalate by using passive strategies?

Cooperation is always the preferred outcome in every interaction we have, and our officers are trained to use de-escalation techniques to help achieve that goal. Through policy and training, our officers make practical attempts at verbal de-escalation before they move to physical use of force, and those decisions are based on the actions and words of the person with whom an officer is interacting. Officers receive training in verbal de-escalation techniques. The University of Illinois Police Training Institute in Champaign is one of the foremost resources on verbal de-escalation, and it is a wonderful resource which we access.

When does UIPD identify an alleged offender’s race in mass communications to campus?

We rarely include racial descriptors in campus notices. From 2017 through May 2020, we issued 41 safety notices. We identified the suspects’ race in four of those notices — of those four, the suspects were described as black in three notices, and described as white in one notice.
 
Racial descriptions do not, by themselves, offer a meaningful picture of an individual’s appearance. Therefore, we only include racial descriptions of alleged offenders in campus alerts when that description includes other unique characteristics that helps the description to identify an individual and not a group of people. For example, if a witness provides information about an unusual tattoo or information about the vehicle that the alleged offender used to leave the area, then the inclusion of this information, along with a racial description of the suspect, helps to provide a more complete picture of that individual’s appearance for identification purposes.
 
This is a restrictive policy in that we start from the assumption that we will not include racial descriptor unless it is accompanied by other information specific enough that the full description identifies an individual and not a population of people. It is very often the case that witnesses are unable to provide us with those unique descriptors. In those cases, we do not include any information about the alleged offender’s race.

Are UIPD officers forbidden from using chokeholds?

Chokeholds were banned by an Illinois state law enacted in 2016. Additionally, chokeholds have not been a part of UIPD training for years.

Are UIPD officers required to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive or illegal methods to control an individual?

By policy, personnel who witness misconduct or behavior not consistent with UIPD policies are required to report that behavior to a supervisor. Failure to report may result in discipline. Additionally, case law suggests that police officers have an affirmative duty to intercede on behalf of a citizen whose constitutional rights are being violated in their presence by other officers. In cases where someone’s life or safety may be in danger as a result of another officer’s illegal actions, we would expect our officers to intervene.

Are the officers at UIPD allowed to shoot at moving vehicles?

Officers are not authorized to fire at a moving vehicle unless the officer believes that doing so is necessary to defend against imminent death or great bodily harm to the officer or another person. We must be clear — this would occur only under the most extreme scenarios and, even then, is not the preferred option.

Is there a clear use-of-force continuum that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance?

Yes. Our officers are trained to respond to the level of resistance exhibited by an individual, and to be prepared to adjust their actions quickly based on the words and actions of the person with whom they are interacting. UIPD policy states that, “the officer shall maintain objectivity and employ reasonable force in reaction to the offender’s behavior through escalation or de-escalation.”

Are officers at UIPD required to exhaust every other possible option before using deadly force?

Deadly force is never the preferred option, and UIPD officers are trained to make attempts to de-escalate when it is practical and safe to do so. However, the most extreme incidents often play out in a matter of seconds or less. When there is not a reasonable opportunity to make attempts at de-escalation, officers are authorized to use the force necessary — including deadly force — if the officer or another person is at imminent risk of death or great bodily harm. The appropriate tactic depends on the situation.

Are officers at UIPD required to give verbal warning to civilians before drawing their weapon or using an elevated level of force?

UIPD policy states that announcements are to be made “when feasible, and where such action does not increase the level of danger to the officer or others.” We train officers to make announcements, but there are times when the volatility of the situation would not allow for such an announcement.

Are officers at UIPD required to report each time they use force?

Yes. Officers must document every time they use force or point a weapon at another person. Every one of those instances is reviewed administratively to ensure that the officer acted in accordance with their training, department policy and state law.

Does UIPD track data on officer-involved shootings?

As a result of our detailed tracking of use of force, UIPD does keep records on officer-involved shootings. But officer-involved shootings are a very infrequent occurrence at UIPD. In the last 10 years, UIPD officers have fired their weapons in only two incidents, neither of which were fatal. In its history, UIPD has only been involved in one fatal officer-involved shooting, and that was in 2009. It is likely that the officers who were employed by the department at those times will be able to recall the incidents from memory because every officer-involved shooting is a very jarring experience for the entire department, and the whole community. No officer ever wants to fire their weapon, let alone take a human life.

Are UIPD officers thoroughly vetted to ensure that they do not have a history with abuse, racism, xenophobia, homophobia/transphobia, or discrimination?

We conduct extensive screening of new recruits as they are hired. This includes a detailed criminal background check, psychological exam and checks of any social media accounts that are visible to the public. This process would identify and eliminate anyone who has expressed attitudes that would lead us to believe that they are not capable of treating every person with fairness and dignity. Additionally, our existing officers are expected to conduct themselves in a way that demonstrates our community-based values at all times. Officers must behave in a professional and dignified manner both on- and off-duty. This is written into our department policy, and violations are subject to discipline, including termination in severe cases.

What kind of training do UIPD officers receive to combat implicit bias and systemic racism?

All UIPD officers complete regular training in the following areas: civil rights, cultural competency, human rights, mental health awareness, procedural justice, and use of force, among others. Below is a sampling of courses that UIPD officers attended between January 2019 and June 2020: Balancing our biases (8 hours); Communication in the Police Environment (5 hours); Community Awareness Training (8 hours); Constitutional Authority (1 hour); Cultural Competency (1 hour); Hate crimes (3 hours); Illinois Human Rights Act (1 hour); Mental Health Intervention and De-escalation (8 hours); Policing Demonstrations, Protests and Civil Unrest (8 hours).
 
UIPD is proactive in sending officers to these courses when opportunities are available.
 
Additionally, the majority of UIPD officers are trained in crisis intervention, which provides the skills and abilities for officers to recognize when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis and the appropriate techniques for de-escalating and providing resources to that individual. Although this training does not directly address systemic bias and racism in our community, many of these issues are interrelated.
 
Several officers, civilian staff and command staff at UIPD have graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Five Days for Change program, which teaches cultural and racial sensitivity, implicit bias, and strategies to intervene in situations where racism or bias are affecting an individual or the community.

Are officers trained to render medical aid in instances where someone is injured as a result of the officer’s use of force?

Yes. Officers are trained and equipped to render first aid and call for a medical response. UIPD policy states that, “If an injury results from an officer’s use of force, it shall be the responsibility of officers on-scene to ensure that adequate medical care is made available to the injured party as soon as practical.”

Is there a system to correct officers who do not act in accordance with department policy?

Yes, our officers are evaluated by their supervisors on a regular basis in order to catch any negative patterns or trends and to reinforce positive behavior. These evaluations also happen in real time if a supervisor has concerns about an officer’s performance. Additionally, UIPD regularly reviews body-worn camera and in-car camera footage as early detection of concerning behavior or patterns. As university employees, our officers are subject to the same disciplinary procedures as other university employees, which involves an escalating series of disciplinary actions if the officer fails to correct their behavior. In extreme cases, officers can be terminated on a first offense.

How many complaints can an officer receive before they are disciplined?

There is no requisite number of complaints that would lead to immediate discipline or termination. Even one sustained complaint could lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination, depending on its severity. The University of Illinois Police Department has received only two citizen complaints per year in each of the last three years. UIPD received one bias-based complaint in 2017 and none in 2018 and 2019. UIPD has more than 12,000 formal contacts with citizens each year.

What is the standard by which use of force is reviewed?

Throughout the country, use of force reviews are based on legal precedents established in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Graham v. Connor (1989). Justices wrote that “the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on scene, rather than the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” This means that the totality of information known to the officer at the time of action, not what is learned thereafter, is the basis upon which such police use of force actions shall be reviewed. Reasonableness requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual against countervailing governmental interests. The severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight are the major factors which were outlined in Graham v. Connor in determining reasonableness.