After taking some extra time to review videos of the situation that took place on April 10 in the arrest of Aleyah Lewis by Urbana police, the NAACP Champaign County Branch believes that the videos show the officer using excessive force to arrest a female who was clearly impaired in some manner.
The NAACPCC has always advocated for a more humane, results-based criminal justice policy to keep our community members and police safe, including an end to racial disparities at all levels. We understand, as our police officers should understand, that regardless of the situation, we are all humans first and should be treated as such at all times.
The NAACP as an organization stands with, and is working with, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and police departments across the state on our 10 Shared Principles. These principles were affirmed by both organizations in Springfield on March 22, 2018, for the purpose of building relationships and trust between both the police and the black community.
As we all know, there are historical reasons why so many community members of color, to this day, mistrust the police. Unfortunately, the Urbana Police Department has not adopted these principles, which give officers guidance on how to handle encounters that build trust and not additional reasons to distrust.
We also believe that had Ms. Lewis been a white female, Urbana police would not have body-slammed her to the ground in the manner in which they did to this young lady.
The 10th principle states, “The NAACP believes de-escalation training should be required to ensure the safety of community members and officers. We endorse using de-escalation tactics to reduce the potential for confrontations that endanger law enforcement officers and community members; and the principle that human life should be taken only as a last resort.”
The NAACPCC believes that the recent incident involving a black female could have been avoided had the Urbana Police Department adopted and trained its officers on the 10 Shared Principles — most particularly, the de-escalation principle.
Due to the disturbing actions displayed by the Urbana police in the videos, the NAACPCC recommends that the Urbana chief of police immediately initiate an internal affairs investigation to determine the facts of this case and restore trust to this community.
Our police officers are supposed to protect and serve, but when we work collaboratively with the community and ensure a transparent process, then we truly serve the community to achieve the goals of fairness, safety, justice and respect for all our citizens.