Community groups respond to Peoria Police statement on police-involved deaths

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A group of local organizations said they are unhappy with a statement issued late Wednesday by Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion regarding five men who died related to police incidents between 2017 and May, 2020.

The groups — led in a news conference Thursday by Mayoral candidate Chama St. Louis and Ryan Hidden of Change Peoria, among others — claimed the information distributed by Marion was information already known to the public, and don’t answer Freedom of Information Act requests the groups filed June 9 regarding the deaths of Eddie Russell, Jr., Daniel El, Luis Cruz, David Smith, and Trashaun Shields. The groups are asking for “all complaints registered against any officers in a police-involved death over the last three years as well as what follow up was done to investigate those complaints and what disciplinary action resulted from those complaints,” according to a press release.

“The press release that the Peoria Police Department sent out did not address anything that we asked for in the FOIA request,” said St. Louis. “Essentially, what they did was give an overview of what the public already knew concerning those deaths, based off their accounts. It was really just a release to justify the police’s behavior in those deaths, versus giving us information about those police behaviors prior to those deaths, and after those deaths. It is not what we asked for.”

St. Louis said there have been plenty of dialogue recently with Marion about what can be done better in the wake of George Floyd in Minneapolis — but that nothing has changed, and while more dialogue would be considered, action is now needed.

The community organizations believe there should not be an investigation of Peoria Police actions by the Illinois State Police, or other law enforcement agencies.

“Ideally, the investigations would be done by independent organizations,” said Ryan Hidden, Executive Director, Change Peoria. “It shouldn’t be done by co-workers.” Hidden said other states have models for which independent investigations can be done.

“More than once, our chief of police has used the death of George Floyd and what happened in Minneapolis to excuse away holding his own officers accountable,” St. Louis said, claiming Marion has failed to address the use of force by his own officers. St. Louis said she has “major concerns” about the chief’s leadership.

The community groups involved include: Black Justice Project, Change Peoria, The Streets Coalition, Minority Academic Advancement Project, Peoria Black Chamber of Commerce, Peoria Peace and Nonviolence Leadership Institute, Black Lives Matter Peoria, NAACP Peoria Branch, and ACLU of Illinois – Peoria Area Chapter.

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