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City Council to review DeKalb Police Department’s 2019 report Monday

DeKALB – The DeKalb Police Department’s 2019 Annual Report, which details crime trends, policing initiatives, policy changes and staffing levels among others, will be presented to the city council Monday night.

The timing of the report comes as daily Black Lives Matter protests continue throughout DeKalb County, spurred by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes before his death.

Former top DeKalb officer John Petragallo retired Tuesday, so the new interim police chief, Bob Redel, will present the report to the council for review.

In 2019, theft, burglary and arson rose by 15% due to what Petragallo, documents show, attributed to “serial offenders,” including multiple incidents of suspected arson after several apartment buildings were presumed lit on fire intentionally last July. Drug-related crime is down by 2%.

The reports shows officers also underwent “Cultural, De-escalation and Procedural Justice Training,” which includes tactical de-escalation for police encounters deemed nonviolent, racial bias training and a session called “Legally justified but was it avoidable,” documents show.

Following an arrest last August that gained national attention after video showed Sgt. Jeffrey Weese, a white officer, arresting Elonte McDowell, a black man, by placing him in what a police forensic doctor later deemed a chokehold, the department has been under significant scrutiny.

The arrest gained national attention as McDowell yelled “I can’t breathe.” Weese was placed on desk duty pending an investigation by the Illinois State Police, which later included a DeKalb county grand jury who declined to press criminal charges against Weese. In February, after an internal investigation by the DeKalb police department, Weese was placed on unpaid suspension for 30 days, ordered to undergo cultural competency training and prohibited from being promoted for a year.

Although the department is currently piloting a body camera program, cameras for all officers department-wide are not yet a reality. The full use of body cameras, estimated to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, would be pending approval within the city budget, which is also expected to take a significant financial hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout.

At the earliest, body cameras would not occur until 2021, Petragallo said in an interview back in January when the pilot program began.

Also in 2019, the department underwent a policy assessment that reviewed all policing procedures and policies to make sure they were updated with ‘best practices’ or in line with how other departments are carrying out protocol.

The Committee of the Whole meeting is set for 5 p.m. in the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St., but city hall as of Friday officially has a new home since staff moved over to the former First National Bank known as the Nehring building, 164 E. Lincoln Highway.

In response to ongoing demonstrations by local Black Lives Matter demonstrators, City Manager Bill Nicklas said Thursday he hopes to have a town hall meeting on community race relations before the City Council meeting June 22.

“These trainings focus on techniques for avoiding violent encounters, self-awareness and officer wellness, as well as the procedural justice pillars of fairness, impartiality, and transparency,” the report reads. “The goal of these training initiatives is to enhance public trust fostering stronger relationships between the community and the police.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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