Citizens board for Joliet police in limbo?

City Council members say proposal for new police review board not dead, but it’s future is uncertain

Whatever plans Joliet has for a citizens board to watch over the police department may not be dead, but they do appear to be in need of a push if they are ever going to happen.

The idea of a citizens advisory board was proposed last summer by local advocates for police reform in the wake of the George Floyd killing and the release of video showing Eric Lurry dying while in Joliet police custody.

Proposals have received attention at numerous committee meetings with the structure of the board being redone nearly every time it got a public airing.

As of yet, nothing has been been proposed to the City Council.

“It’s not dead. It’s just waiting to get back on the agenda,” Councilman Terry Morris said Friday.

Morris is chairman of the Land Use and Legislative Committee that has reviewed several versions of the proposed panel, which at one time was being called a review board that would have subpoena powers to conduct its own reviews of police matters and more recently has been dubbed an advisory board that would leave the investigating to the police department.

Newly elected Councilman Cesar Guerrero, whose campaign included support for a citizens board, said advocates are questioning the city’s willingness to move forward.

“Myself and others who have been involved with this do get the sense that while the city has expressed interest in going forward with this, it has started to step back,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero said he questioned whether pro-police statements made by several council members at the end of the council meeting Tuesday, when members are free to discuss topics of their choosing, was a signal that the review board proposal could be abandoned.

“Not at all,” said Councilman Joe Clement, a retired Joliet police officer who, like Guerrero, was first elected to the council in April.

Clement, who initiated the pro-police discussion on Tuesday, said he made his comment after talking with Joliet officers who were concerned in light of events across the country whether “the city had their back.”

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk appointed Clement to the Land Use and Legislative Committee, which means Clement can have a big say in whether a proposal moves forward and what shape it takes.

Clement said he believes Joliet police officers support a citizens board depending on its structure and powers. But he has reservations.

Noting that the city has a Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, Clement said, “I think we’re just being redundant.”

Clement said he expected the committee to take up the question of the citizens board again. But, he added, “I think we need to take our time on it.”

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News