Local NAACP supporters worry about subconscious racism with the Rockford Police Department and the deadly consequences they claim it's creating. The group calls for changes from the department and community.
The NAACP says it had to bring forward this discussion because in the last year alone three African American men were shot and killed by Rockford Police. It is important to note though...All three of those shootings were ruled justified.
"Without question African American males are over represented among police shooting victims," says Lloyd Johnston, NAACP of Rockford president.
Community leaders join with Johnston to call on the Rockford Police Department, the Winnebago Boone County Integrity Task Force and other law enforcement agencies to look at their own policies and officers to figure out why the numbers are the way they are. The NAACP wants Rockford especially to look at possible subconscious racial bias or prejudices.
"We are going down the same road since 2009 shooting of the Barmore young man. We have not seen any improvement or anything positive with the Task Force," says L.C. Wilson, Winnebago County Board member.
The task force was formed following that shooting of Mark Barmore inside a Rockford church's basement. It was intended to take the bias out of investigations. The NAACP says it's too early to know if it is working but says the community is already questioning it.
"The consistent exoneration of law enforcement is leading to both greater community distrust of police. And a greater probability that the hostile interactions that proceed the shooting with continue," says Johnston.
"We've probably got some of the finest police officers in the City of Rockford but we still need answers to certain questions," says State Representative Chuck Jefferson.
NAACP Rockford wants to present its initiatives to the Rockford Police and other community stakeholders.
We reached out to spokesperson for that task force and they said they had no comment. We also called the City of Rockford and the Police Department but have yet to hear back. I did speak with Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato and he says he does not have anything to do with training police officers. But he believes in training and thinks it's an important part of preparation for officers. However he does not have any concerns about the training they receive based on the cases he's reviewed.
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