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Citizen panel: Bloomington police should change how it handles canceling citations

Citizen panel: Bloomington police should change how it handles canceling citations

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The Bloomington Public Safety and Community Relations Board meets on Dec. 18, 2019, at City of Refuge Ministries in downtown Bloomington. Board members are, from left to right, William Bennett, Surena Fish, Robert Bosquez, Art Taylor, Sally Rudolph, Jeff Woodard and Jan Lancaster.

BLOOMINGTON — The Bloomington Public Safety and Community Relations Board has recommended the Bloomington Police Department strengthen its notification policy when citations are voided.

The board voted unanimously Wednesday to make the recommendation after reviewing at its January meeting an appeal of a complaint received by the board on Dec. 18 — its second complaint about a police action in the panel's two-year existence. The complaint involved how a citation alleging driving under the influence was issued, canceled and later reissued. 

"This is something we want to evaluate," Police Chief Dan Donath said Thursday. "Obviously, the PSCRB is a representation of the community and we appreciate their feedback and suggestions in the way that we operate. We will take a look at that recommendation and see how it fits."

The panel of private citizens was created by the City Council in July 2017 to advise the police chief and city manager on police-related issues and complaints.

The board also affirmed how the officer handled the situation, saying he followed department protocol and procedures. 

"We felt that the (department's) investigation and protocol was followed," said PSCRB Chairman Art Taylor. "What we did find is there was no written policy in place to deal with a citation that has been voided." 

"The complaint itself occurred in March 2016 so it's a very old complaint," said Taylor, adding that he did not know why the complainant filed an appeal after nearly four years.

The complaining person was issued a driving under the influence of drugs citation related to an automobile accident.

The police officer who responded to the accident suspected that drugs and alcohol may have been involved and issued the citation, said Taylor.

But after the driver was transported to Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and later transferred to a Peoria hospital, the officer "realized that he had issued the citation in error because he needed a blood sample ... so he voided the citation," said Taylor. "The complainant never got the voided citation."

When results from toxicology tests on samples taken from the driver at the time of the crash came back about a month later, the complainant was issued a second DUI citation, to which he pleaded guilty, said Taylor.

Taylor said he could not provide the names of the officer and the complainant because their names are redacted in the appeal submitted to the PSCRB to ensure confidentiality and impartiality.

The complaint was among 11 about officer conduct filed in 2019. That number was down from 20 filed in 2018, 15 In 2017 and 17 in 2016. 

All complaints about Bloomington police must be filed first with the police department, which then investigates them.

The seven-member PSCRB, which has been meeting monthly since December 2017, reviews any cases appealed by people dissatisfied with the BPD's determination.

But the board plays an advisory role only.

In looking at an appealed complaint, the board is empowered only to review whether police department protocols were followed properly in the department's own investigation of the complaint. They are free to make recommendations on policy changes, but have no authority over the department.

 

Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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