Friday, April 24, 2009

Police Brutality Press Conference

Hat tip to Stella for the photos:
Today’s press conference held by Pastor Harvey Burnett on the steps of City Hall was in full attendance by local television and radio stations. There were also several individuals who appeared along side Pastor Burnett who spoke specifically to the police brutality they each allegedly faced at the hands of Peoria Police.

Pastor Burnett:
On June 30th 2007 The Peoria Association of Pastors For Community & Spiritual Renewal along with the residents of this city, some Christian and otherwise, met in front of this Peoria City Hall prayed prayers, read biblical scriptures and marched to Morgan Park where we conducted a rally against violence, crime and murder. At that time violent crime had taken this city causing residents to fear for their lives and very existence within the community. The week of that event there were 3 murders that had taken place. Thankfully there has not been another week in this city quite like that since. However there is still yet a fear.

Last time we marched away from City Hall to better serve the community. This time we stand prepared to march into City Hall because it is time that this city better serve the needs of all of its citizens.

Approximately one year ago, after my initial press conference exposing incidents of alleged police brutality, Peoria Police Chief Settingsgaard told me in front of other pastors that there was no problem with police brutality in this city and that I was simply stirring up or creating a problem. I first want to say that the statements I am about to make are not directed toward the many fine police offices that do their job exceptionally well everyday. I want to say that those officers are a benefit to this community and to the many families who count on their service. To them we wish to say thank you and please continue to the job that all citizens of Peoria can be and are proud of. .

But to those officers who feel that a badge and a gun empowers them to decide what civil rights a person has in their presence, to you we say your reign of terror upon the citizens of this community is over and we will peacefully do everything that we can to bring about change even if that means forcing you to surrender your badge.

Over a year since the Chief made his astounding proclamation to me in the face of evidence, new and shocking video evidence has surfaced, of not just one incident, but at least two incidents of alleged police brutality, at least three officers are now preparing to defend themselves in court for such alleged abuses. We have city officials some of whom seem to be derelict in dealing with any incidents or allegations of police brutality because they seem to value image of the city over the citizenry of the community. Might I remind you that this problem has long been a problem before I spoke out against it last year. As early as 2005 the Peoria Pundit Blog was asking questions and doing stories about allegations of Police Brutality in Peoria. My comments are not and should not be taken as an anomoly.

To the critic, who thinks, “why should the rights of criminals be protected?” or “they just should have obeyed the law” I would have you to know that not all of these people were criminals and not all of them were disobeying the law when they were allegedly brutalized. Some of them were elders of our community with good and impeccable work records. Some were simply inquiring about the status of family and friends only to find themselves at the wrong end of a tazer multiple times or being kicked insistently while handcuffed and subdued.

In fact, behind me stands the citizens of this community. Many of them either having had their civil rights violated by a City Police Officer or having witnessed the rights of others taken away through strong-arm and what I call Gestapo tactics. Some of them were tazed multiply; in one incidence approximately 22 times. As stated, some were handcuffed, then beaten, while they were told that they were “resisting” with no regard to the fact that they had already been subdued. Just about all of them were cussed at insistently, and many asked repeatedly, “Do you know who I am?” which is coded police street language usurping dominion over a persons actions. Some of these persons were even denied adequate medical care so that the full extent of their injuries would not be immediately made known. Still yet others were taken to the hospital and woke up 24 to 36 hours later with a court date but not under arrest. Police have entered homes and businesses using foul language and disrespecting families and business owners because they felt it was convenient to do so. These actions are the actions of criminals. These actions instill fear in the hearts of citizens. These actions must cease.

This is why we are here today. To shed light on wrong and to demand that this city and its police department come to accountability for its actions.

We hold Police Chief Settingsgaard responsible for the actions of his officers in the field. Even though his officers have voted no confidence in him, he proudly states that he is the chief policy maker for this department. We only wish to affirm that if his policies results in actions such as these that have been alleged by this representative group of citizens, both it and he must be changed.

We also hold Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis accountable for his inaction over the same period of time since I spoke with him regarding allegations and incidents. We hold the Peoria County States Attorney’s Office accountable for not hearing the multiple complaints or responding to my personal calls and faxes to his office to intervene. In fact all attempts to engage his office went UNANSWERED. We blame the Peoria legal community, for their silence and refusal to take cases because of who the actions would be against.

Yes there is a fundamental problem and that problem must be fixed. As citizens of the community we demand that it be fixed. We demand that the civil rights of individuals who have dealing with the police for whatever reason and under whatever circumstance be protected.

Today we will submit written and verbal complaints through the city attorney’s office. We hope that our actions will spark a new day in Peoria where all of its citizens will feel that the police are truly a partner with the citizens of the community and not a threat to the safety of any of our loved ones.

Thank you.