By DEVIN BROOKS, News Reporter
MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS 3) — Changes to the Macomb Police Department’s training and policy are underway amid calls for reform and racial justice.
The Macomb City Council took up the issue at its meeting on Oct. 12 after months of calls to review where the department stands in building trust with the public.
Police Chief Curt Barker gave a presentation to the aldermen discussing measures and plans aimed at improving policing.
He said the department is working to bring social workers on calls in the near future. A handful of officers have trained in crisis intervention and the entire department went through anti-bias policing training in September. A complaint form is now available to the public on its website. Baker hopes to hire a chief diversity officer and plan First Amendment training for the entire force.
Barker said these ideas came from the United States Conference of Mayors, which looked at ways to bridge the divide between law enforcement and people of color. He said the department currently has a diverse group of applicants who are about to become officers, but he would like to see more.
The reform measures come as the department is set to buy 25 body cameras for officers to start using by next spring.
Groups such as the Democratic Women of McDonough County have been at the center of calls to investigate the department for allegations of police misconduct. The group is now calling for the city to host a town hall meeting to discuss race issues in the community.
“There’s a lot going on here and none of this gets fixed until a discussion that brings in our most marginalized, least represented, least protected voices,” Heather McMeekan, the group’s president said. “We’re glad that these discussions are happening. We’re getting closer to having real discussions.”
Barker said there is always room for improvement, but he knows his officers care about serving the community.
“Our department is very professional,” Barker said. “As I’ve said, we’re an accredited agency. Anybody that wants to come and investigate us, I’m open.”
Mayor Mike Inman said the reform measures are important to address concerns and make sure all groups feel safe and treated fairly.
“It’s my task that we continue to move in a positive direction to resolve these issues and not get bogged down on my way is the only way and this way is the only way,” Inman said.
Alderman-at-Large Tammie Leigh Brown-Edwards asked Barker if he hopes the chief diversity officer is a person of color, and he said, “I would think that would be important.”
Six “minor” complaints were filed against Macomb Police in 2019, according to Barker. He has received two complaints so far this year.