PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis speaking publicly Wednesday about the death of George Floyd.
He believes former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s actions were ‘atrocious and horrific.’
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar tweeted Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing charges against fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 2nd degree murder for George Floyd’s death.
The most serious charge was filed against Derek Chauvin, whose caught-on-video treatment of the handcuffed Floyd spurred worldwide protests. Three other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All four were fired last week.
Ardis says the other three officers who have now been charged should have done something to stop Chauvin.
“I think they are complicit as well. I think they certainly should have done something to stop that situation,” Ardis said.
Mayor Ardis shared his response to the peaceful protests and the separate group of people who have been looting businesses with WMBD-TV Wednesday.
Mayor Ardis commends Peoria first responders for the countless hours of service they’ve put in this last week.
Police officers, firefighters, and AMT personnel responded to cars on fire, glass shattered from businesses being broken into, and a multitude of arsons.
Ardis says he appreciates the peaceful protests we’ve seen in central Illinois over the last few days. He also commends the Police Department for keeping people safe when a separate group of people decided to loot buildings and set cars on fire.
“I think they’ve done an unbelievable job in unbelievable circumstances. We just want to provide the support for them to do that and keep our community safe,” Ardis said.
“I respect the people who have been gathering peacefully to show their concern for this situation,” Ardis said. “For every 100 people that are out there that are being respectful, that are outraged at the situation and they want to push for change. For every 100 there’s 1 that’s going to loot, vandalize, and do things to make the whole cause look like it’s unworthy.”
Ardis says the city and country really need to take notice of what’s happening right now and have some serious conversations.
“We have decades and decades that have contributed to the systemic issue that we have. We’re not going to have a couple meetings in a couple places and it’s gonna be fixed, it’s going to take a long time. But we have to show that as a city and as a country we’re united to address this and force ourselves to keep it a priority regardless of what the outside noise is or what the catastrophe of the day may be,” Ardis said.
The Coronavirus put City Council in a precarious situation, now council members are looking at staffing cuts to both police and fire departments.
Mayor Ardis says this past week might make the Council consider other options than staffing cuts.
One of those options could be a fee going towards saving staff of at least the two departments.
Ardis tells WMBD it’s ultimately the council’s decision on what to do, but he wants the community to voice their opinions on what they want to see happen.
“We have police officers and firefighters on staff hoping that we never are in a situation like we’re in right now. Thank God we have the resources that we do. It’s not just a council consideration, nobody wants more taxes or fees, but none of this stuff happens without a price tag associated with it. The community has to have that discussion and have that communication with elected officials, that ‘We’re not looking for a lot more fees, but under the circumstances, I might be able to afford a little bit more to make sure we retain the quality of police and fire we have. That’s a serious discussion and I bet a lot of people who have said ‘I’m not paying another dime, might be saying, realizing what has happened this last week.. I don’t wanna pay a lot more, but I see we’re stretched really thin. Perhaps they would allow that consideration. We’ll see. But regardless, the council has to make the ultimate decision. If we decide we need to keep minimum numbers where a lot of people think we’re there right now, how are we going to juggle that?”Mayor Jim Ardis | City of Peoria
Sincere Williams, part of Change Peoria, Peoria Peace & Nonviolence Leadership Institute among other groups, sent the following statement to City leaders demanding change happen.
As unrest grows throughout Peoria and all over the country, city officials fail to understand that these disturbances are not simply caused by reactions to national events, but are just as much a failure to hold police officers in our own city accountable for their actions. There have been five police-involved deaths in the city in the past three years, some of which have involved the same officers. Officers fired for making racist statements are reinstated after actions from a police union that believes its officers should be accountable to no one but themselves.”Sincere Williams
Earlier today, while city leaders called for calm and asked for people to stay in their homes, they also said that they were open to dialogue. Far too often, members of the black community have engaged in this dialogue only to find platitudes and empty promises. The family members of those affected by police violence find nothing but silence from the city that they are supposed to be a part of. City leaders can’t request a call to end the rioting without offering something in return. Therefore, we, the undersigned organizations wish to see how serious city leaders are about accountability. We demand the release of all complaints registered against any officers involved 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.Sincere Williams
“If the administration of the City and Police leadership are serious about engaging with the community, that engagement must begin with accountability for the actions of the police who get to go home to other cities after inflicting trauma on ours. We further demand the Peoria City Council issue a moratorium on evictions, utility (gas & electric) shutoffs, and water shutoffs through the end of the year and any amount owed be forgiven,” Williams statement finished.
We asked Mayor Ardis about this letter today, who confirms he was sent a copy of the statement. He says a conversation has been started.
“The legal department has indicated there is a process for that. Some of it is obtainable for Freedom of Information. My understanding is, some of it is in regards to discipline and things like that, may not be if it’s part of the personnel file. But any of the investigations that have happened, particularly in the officer-involved shootings, there have been public-released reports on those,” Ardis said. To the extent of what the group is asking for, legal has indicated there is a process to release the things that we can legally release.”
It is unsure if any conversation or decision has been made the Williams’ request to issuing the moratorium on evictions and shutoffs through the end of the year.
Some business owners decided to protect their property with firearms due to the reports of break-ins and lootings which happened Sunday and Monday night. Ardis says he supports business owners who choose to protect their property.
“First of all I totally support their right to protect their property and to legally bear arms, which they are. Officers have checked to make sure they have valid firearms cards. With that said, I do think that a lot of thought needs to be put into place. It’s totally within your rights to do that,” Ardis said.
But he says if you are going to do this, you need to consider all possible situations that could happen.
“But you have to think about, what happens when potentially 40-50 cars pull in with 2-3 people per car, what is your plan going to be? If you’re not deterring them just by being present with a firearm, what are you prepared to do? There’s a lot of what-ifs that happen after that concern me,” Ardis said.
Mayor Ardis believes we will see historic change in Peoria and the United States after everything that has happened this past week.
“It really does drive home the need to have a very serious conversation. What’s happened in the past many times is we’ve had these conversations, got a lot of people involved, all for the right reasons, but then just because of probably just the world we live in, there’s always something else that happens to divert attention away,” Ardis said. “I think our country really needs to take notice of what’s happening right now. Unlike anything we’ve ever seen before on any certain one situation and acknowledge the fact we have to have these discussions. We’ve talked about this, we are going to put a mechanism in place to start this discussion. I personally don’t think it should be moderated or moved forward by politicians. I think we need to be a part of the discussion, but I think we have to have a wide-range of people participating in these discussions.”
He adds next Tuesday’s City Council meeting will not be when the Council makes the decision to make cuts, but they’re preparing to have to make some really tough decisions these next two months.