DeKALB – The DeKalb Police Department is officially accredited by the state standards, and the report shows no complaints alleging biased-based policing were filed against the department in 2018 or thus far in 2019, despite a high-profile arrest in August that led to an officer being placed on desk duty.
For two years, the department has been working with the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police to pursue what is known as a Tier II accreditation. According to the report, which will be presented at Monday's City Council meeting, the department was found to operate as a "proactive and professional law enforcement agency."
“One significant improvement that we were able to make in order to be much suited was our new building,” police Cmdr. Jason Leverton said. “At our old facility, things were really cramped and not an ideal setup. So when we designed this building we literally did certain aspects with all the accreditation standards in mind.”
Leverton served as the accreditation liaison during the nearly decade-long process, and said the designation provides the department with another layer of accountability. He said the new police station, at 700 W. Lincoln Highway, fit into the process.
The accreditation process included an assessment of the department’s policies, procedures and operations, and an on-site review which occurred May 15 and 16. During the review, a team from the enforcement program did a department tour, inspected vehicles, interviewed staff, conducted ride-alongs and inspected the station’s records, evidence, patrol, investigations and communications departments.
During that time, DeKalb residents were invited to phone in and provide input to the team about DeKalb police. The report shows 12 people did so.
“The department has a longstanding official prohibition on bias-based policy with a policy that dates back to 2001,” the report reads.
During a public meeting after the controversial arrest of Elonte McDowell on Aug. 24, community members voiced a longstanding fear of DeKalb police and racial tensions. Petragallo said in a community meeting Sept. 4 that the type of behavior later shown in footage of McDowell's arrest is something that "doesn't happen in DeKalb."
While arresting McDowell, DeKalb police wrestled McDowell to the ground and one officer appeared to wrap his arms around McDowell's neck. A DeKalb County Sheriff's deputy then fired a stun gun at McDowell while he was on the ground.
The accreditation report details arrests involving use of force in 2018, and shows there were four formal citizen complaints in 2018 and two that have been reported in 2019, centering around an officer’s personal conduct or enforcement decisions. According to the report, of the six complaints, three were determined to be unfounded, one resulted in counseling for one officer and two resulted in discipline imposed on an officer.
The report also laid out future issues that the department faces, such as technological demands and budgetary constraints, which could affect recordkeeping, communications, staffing levels and vehicle maintenance.
It also cited an “increasingly urban environment,” because of low-quality housing in the area surrounding Northern Illinois University. The report said that some neighborhoods have drug transactions occurring in broad daylight, street robberies and burglaries, and violent crime such as home invasions and shootings.