While working at The News-Gazette, I covered the Champaign and Urbana municipal governments, which included the city’s police departments and the Sheriff’s Office. Throughout my tenure, I wrote a number of investigations and features into issues the departments faced. I have continued this work assigning and editing stories to students through my role as managing editor of CU-CitizenAccess.org.
Three people died in the Champaign County Jail over a 193-day period, leaving grieving family members to ask “why?” I covered this case from the time of the first death to the family not being able to get answers about the death to editing a story about lawsuits stemming from the incidents. This story was the most extensive piece on the issue.
Champaign Police Officer Matt Rush was fired by Chief Anthony Cobb for lying on police reports and misconduct that led to three separate internal investigations. He was also the subject of multiple excessive force lawsuits. He was later given his job back by a union arbitrator.
This story sparked months of coverage, including breaking news about lawsuits in addition to extensive reports into excessive force settlements, stories shared by victims of excessive force, the arbitration process when police officers are fired, the issues that go into a citizen police review board and why it’s so hard to fire police officers.
Domestic violence is the most prevalent crime in Champaign-Urbana. Why can’t prosecutors put offenders behind bars? This was a part of a series that also included coverage of domestic violence at the University of Illinois, funding cuts to service organizations, a task force focused on the issue being placed on hiatus and shelters being forced to turn away hundreds of people because of a lack of resources.
One of the largest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Champaign, Garden Hills was once viewed as a nice place to raise a family, and for many that live there, that hasn’t changed. But for those who live outside Garden Hills, the overwhelming narrative surrounding the neighborhood is an ugly one.
A small jail in Central Illinois houses about 15 Cook County inmates to keep gang members from Chicago safe while awaiting trial, helping the Piatt County Jail pay for the rest of its operations.
One year after Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, the perception of police across the country – and in Central Illinois – has changed. What does that mean for local departments? The effects range from examining racial disparities in rural communities and seeing fewer police applicants to a focus on ‘bad apples’ and reexamining use of force.
Persuading one credible witness to recount what he saw can be the difference between who goes to prison and who walks. But even that, prosecutors and police are finding, is becoming more and more challenging in a community where shootings are happening with increasing regularity and the fear of retribution is real.
Law enforcement officials are now resorting to using the criminal justice system to require a Champaign woman with a history of mental health issues to get help, after multiple attempts at local healthcare facilities failed.
Police give out hundreds of drinking tickets each year to 19- and 20-year-olds — who are legally allowed in bars in Champaign but not legally allowed to drink. Just this year, 436 minor-in-possession tickets have been given out in these raids, worth $155,040. That total doesn’t include the other offenses police find, ranging from unlawful use of an ID to public possession. The money brought in by the raids goes into the city fund and more than pays for the cost of the enforcement unit, which is about $43,000.