Daily Journal staff report
KANKAKEE — The leaders of all Kankakee County law enforcement agencies and Kankakee County Branch of the NAACP are working toward bridging the gap between police and communities of color.
To that end, all parties signed a 10 Shared Principles resolution at Kankakee Community College in February.
“Many of our officers have stated that they aim to establish trust in the community daily. It’s important to be able to relate to one another,” Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong said. “The shared principles are a step in the process of declaring shared values that will build and strengthen relationships in order to keep our communities safe.”
Theodis Pace, president of the local NAACP, was among those who attended the signing event in February.
“The current climate across the nation regarding the mistrust between law enforcement and all communities, but particularly communities of color, this here is historic when you can bring all the community leaders, law enforcement together on a common goal, on a common ground and looking at how can we bridge that gap between, again, our respective communities and law enforcement,” he said the day of the signing.
The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois NAACP State Conference worked together to identify the common ground between local law enforcement and communities of color in their commitment to defending civil rights and keeping communities safe. They signed the document in early 2018.
The two state organizations began work in 2014, four months after unrest erupted in Ferguson, Mo.
ILACP officials said they decided to be proactive and sent a letter to the NAACP State Conference president, requesting a private meeting for a candid conversation. The association presidents at that time were Chief Frank Kaminski of Park Ridge and George Mitchell of Evanston.
As protests and confrontations rippled throughout the country, both ILACP and NAACP determined they would forge a “partnership ensuring safety, dignity and justice for all citizens and police officers alike.”
Through meetings, the ILACP and NAACP State Conference identified the following shared principles:
• Value the life of every person, the preservation of life being the highest value;
• Recognize that all persons should be treated with dignity and respect;
• Reject discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, color, nationality, immigrant status, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or familial status;
• Endorse the six pillars of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing including the first pillar of building trust and legitimacy;
• Endorse the four pillars of procedural justice, which are fairness, voice, transparency and impartiality;
• Endorse the values inherent in community policing, which includes positive engagement between community and police;
• Develop relationships at the leadership and street levels to eliminate racial tension;
• Accept mutual responsibility to encourage all citizens to gain a better understanding of the law to assist in interactions with police;
• Increase diversity in police departments and in the law enforcement profession;
• Commit to de-escalation training to ensure the safety of community members and police officers, and
• Commit to replacing mistrust with mutual trust wherever, whenever and however possible.
“With the signing of the Shared Principles Declaration by executives of all the police agencies in the county and the Kankakee County Branch of the NAACP, we highlighted our mutual commitment to work together to improve public safety throughout the county while safeguarding everyone’s civil liberties,” said Kankakee Police Chief Kosman.
Pace shares that commitment, saying, “We will continue to work together and stand together in Kankakee and the state level to implement these values and principles to replace mistrust with mutual trust wherever, whenever and however we can.”