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Decatur police chief signs on to principles he says his team knows and practices

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DECATUR — In principle, Decatur police and the city’s NAACP Branch both say city officers were already way ahead of the curve in following best practices for building community relations and treating people fairly.

But now an approach to doing policing the right way has been formally codified with Police Chief Shane Brandel signing the “Ten Shared Principles” agreement adopted by the Illinois NAACP State Conference and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

The principles cover everything from basic human rights to covering areas like building mutual trust, operating with transparency and developing strong relationships between cops and “communities of color.”

Brandel points to Decatur initiatives like the ALERT system created with the local NAACP branch to keep the community informed in times of rising tension, such as an officer-involved shooting.

“That started in 2015 to build relationships in our community so if there were events where we needed to get the proper information out, we had the mechanism to do it,” said Brandel.

But he said it never hurts to fly the flag and make sure the community knows and understands the principles the cops use to guide the business of protecting and serving, and the chief said he was more than happy to sign the Ten Shared Principles document.

“We already have performance expectations that apply these principles, and this is just a public affirmation of them,” he added. “That public affirmation is another step in trying to build relationships in our community.”

Michael Diggs, president of the NAACP Decatur Branch, agreed that his hometown police department has already made great strides to conduct itself in the way the shared principles call for.

“It’s something the Decatur Police Department has been doing over the past few years and they’ve really pushed hard for a lot of these things already,” he said.

“I think now (with the signing) they are basically formalizing what they have actually been doing and it makes it so people can see exactly what these principles are and how much they cover.”

The principles are also a two-way street, requiring citizens to devote some time to being better citizens as well. Principle eight, for example, says: “We believe that law enforcement and community leaders have a mutual responsibility to encourage all citizens to gain a better understanding and knowledge of the law to assist them in their interactions with law enforcement officers.”

And principle five says everybody has to listen to everybody else if justice is to prevail: “We endorse the four pillars of procedural justice, which are fairness, voice (i.e. an opportunity for citizens and police to believe they are heard), transparency and impartiality.”

Principle 10, the final one, calls for “de-escalation training,” designed to head off violence in volatile situations, to be required to help ensure the safety of both cops and those they police.

Brandel said, again, his department had already taken the lead on that one. “We had actually put our entire department through de-escalation training in 2020 and that was before the time when de-escalation training was even readily available,” he said.

“As with all these principles, we’ve been doing them and we’ve been living them.”

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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