Guest post by Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong, Kankakee, IL and Frank Kosman, Kankakee Chief of Police
I was elected as the city of Kankakee, IL’s first black mayor in 2017, and I proudly represent a diverse community of approximately 27,000 residents. In response to recent events surrounding racism and police brutality, I find it absolutely abhorrent and heartbreaking to continuously witness a pattern of violence toward black men in this country who are targeted by law enforcement officers. Like many of my fellow mayors, I feel compelled to speak out and to act in this moment. Below, I share a joint statement in response to this action from myself and Kankakee Police Chief Frank Kosman and an invitation to my fellow mayors to join me sharing best practices and discussing how we can act individually and collectively in this moment.
In response to the incidents of police brutality in our country, the men and women of the Kankakee Police Department pledge their respect for the value of all human life and upholding dignity of all persons. Moreover, the department personnel understands the actions of those officers reflect negatively on law enforcement as a whole. Sadly, these incidents erode the community partnership that the members of the Kankakee Police Department strive to improve in their numerous daily interactions with the public they have chosen to serve.
We have chosen to take a proactive approach to improving operations within our local department by assessing current use of force policies and considering the other initiatives of the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign in which the City is not currently aligned. The “8 Can’t Wait” initiative created by Campaign Zero, provides eight use of force policy reforms mayors and police chiefs can implement to reduce violence by 72% in communities. Currently, the City of Kankakee is aligned with five of the eight policy recommendations of the initiative. Furthermore, Kankakee police officers have a mandatory duty to intercede to stop and then report any use of unreasonable force by any other officer. They are trained to do so. Failure to intercede and report can lead to disciplinary action up to termination. Additional areas of focus for our city include: improving diversity within the department, focusing on training specific to communications and critical thinking, community outreach activities to strengthen relationships with residents, hosting Citizen Academies for minority communities, providing mentors for entry-level officers and investing in wellness programs.
As mayors, it is our duty to protect our most vulnerable and to create communities where everyone feels safe, loved, and valued.
As mayor of Kankakee, I am deeply committed to systemic change that holds police accountable and lifts up communities of color. To me, that means revisiting our Use of Force policy, engaging our community to better understand their needs, committing to practices that strengthen relationships between police and the communities they serve, and ensuring that police officers are held accountable for their actions.
Late President, John F. Kennedy stated, “the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” It is time for Americans who believe in justice for all to STAND TOGETHER and work in unity to rid our country of police brutality.
If you share this vision, join me in committing to continue this critical conversation. Enter your information below to be invited to join me in a mayors-only discussion on actions we can take to reduce violence towards people of color.
Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong, Kankakee, IL
Frank Koshman, Chief of Police, Kankakee, IL