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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Thoughts from the Embers: Responding to County Sheriff controversy

Thoughts from the Embers: Responding to County Sheriff controversy

The TKS Editorial Board weighs in on a recent controversy surrounding a statement made by the Knox County Sheriff, criticizing the Illinois Criminal Justice and Police Reform Bill, HB 3653.

Sarah Eitel, Co-News Editor

The letter that Sheriff David Clague released in response to the announcement of the criminal reform bill passed in Illinois last week was abhorrent. It proudly displayed the ideals of white supremacy that are so deeply ingrained in policing in America when he declared a resignation to the reform would “shows the Black Caucus that they won. We are better than that!” 

Clague claimed that the reform is bad for policing. What is bad for policing about officers having access to mental healthcare? What is bad for policing about enforcing body cameras so it will be clear what happens during police encounters? What is bad about banning chokeholds? What is bad about extra training? What is bad for policing about asking officers to render aid and to intervene when excessive force is being used?

It seems like the Knox County Sheriff’s Department is simply afraid of losing the power they previously had over citizens. They’re afraid that a Black Caucus is taking that power from them. Clague leaned into a deep-rooted white supremacy within policing and within rural Illinois to encourage residents to fight against a bill that holds officers accountable for their actions, asks them to do better, and offers them help to accomplish that goal.

This letter should be cause for outrage in Knox County and on campus. It is unacceptable.

Sadie Cheney, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Since the release of this post made by Sheriff David Clague, a small post on Facebook was made apologizing. The original message has since been removed, yet there is still evidence of the post from people saving screenshots. This all happened over Facebook and in my opinion, this really is a not-so-great way of making sure your “apology” is seen, regardless of where the original post was made. 

Recently, there was also an article published by the Register-Mail where Clague denied commenting entirely. I think this would have been a better way to attempt a better apology, even though I don’t think an apology is really enough. 

Whether this post was an “accident” or not, these words are still something he personally believes. He didn’t write this on accident. Galesburg’s Police Department has a sheriff who’s more concerned about money than the safety of black people in Galesburg. 

So what is he going to do to really apologize? Those are simply just words. They were never even said aloud, and rather just posted on social media. He doesn’t mean the words he wrote, and if he did, there would be a plan to rectify his actions. He needs to prove it. 

The NAACP made a post about Clague’s post saying “Apologies are simply words that let us know of the acknowledgment of wrongdoing. We want action that is reflective of equity for all people, particularly people of color.” 

Carlos Flores-Gaytan, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The Sheriff’s original comments in this case are emblematic of the problem with how law enforcement has largely responded to calls for reform. It seems like it should be impossible for anyone who has paid attention to the events of the past year (and even further back) to not believe there are real problems to be addressed. But it seems as if most police want to hold on to the position that they’ve done nothing wrong, and any attempt to demand more accountability is somehow an outrageous overstep.

Frankly, there is not much all that radical about the bill the Sheriff took issue with. There are many provisions within the bill, but generally the law requests greater transparency  from the police, ensures that detained people still hold certain rights, bans certain military equipment that’s clearly unnecessary for a police department, and seeks to take away certification from police officers who have been convicted of serious offenses. 

As much as law enforcement might want to claim this type of reform is dangerous and will make our communities less safe, I can only see it as a moderate step to make everyone (but especially people of color) feel less at risk of abuse from the law enforcement. 

What last summer proved is that many people in this country are tired of what police have been allowed to get away with, and their demand for progress can not simply be ignored. Many people have called for much more radical change to policing than what this bill seeks to accomplish. If police resist even moderate steps to address the grievances people of color have with them, they should not be surprised if even more people become convinced that radical change is what’s needed to address the problem. 

Alicia Olejniczak, C0-News Editor

The initial letter sent out by the Knox County Sheriff was at least, irresponsible, and at worst, a call to action. 

It is very clear that HB 3653 has arrived as a result of the severe abuses of power that police across the country have committed. It seeks to ban chokeholds and certain types of military equipment (such as armored vans and grenade launchers, among others). It will require body cams and reporting deaths in police custody, among several other protections towards citizens. Mental health screenings for officers are also being required, as well as crisis intervention and first aid training.

What may seem like a law put in place to increase the quality, training and safety of officers has been received as an attack against them; put them in time-out so to say. But I say, why not? Why shouldn’t there be consequences held against officers for their repetitive irresponsibility, cruelty and excessive violence towards the communities they swore to protect. 

There is no need to go into detail about the regular abuses of power that officers have committed since the very origins of policing in this country up until today. The question now is, will officers accept the incoming demands being made by lawmakers instead of constituents? It’s likely that pepper spraying lawmakers wouldn’t create much of a valid argument. 

Hopefully, we will see officers cooperate with the requirements set in this bill that is on its way to being signed by Pritzker. After all, if they just cooperate, things will be fine, right?

Caroline Clink, Discourse Editor

Calls for any sort of change or reform in policing always see outrage from police departments, and the Knox County Sheriff is not any different. They see any attempts to make things safer for people everywhere as a direct attack on their rights and their ability to operate. They see further protections for those affected by police brutality as something that will hold them back from being able to do their jobs and protect people, but that simply isn’t true.

What HB 3653 seeks to do, above all, is make sure that police are able to be held accountable for their actions. What is bad about enforcing the use of body cameras? Why do we have to fight against the banning of chokeholds? It is not an outrageous thing to ask that people feel safe when interacting with police officers that are supposed to be working to protect us, but Sheriff David Clauge wants us to think it is.

He said that we can’t let the Black Caucus win, as if this is a situation of us versus them, rather than increasing protection and accountability for all. They view the Black Caucus as a threat to white supremacists institutions they have always fought to upheld through policing. 

The job of police everywhere, and also the Knox County Sheriff, is to protect and serve, but protect and serve who? It is clear from Clauge’s Facebook post that they are only there to protect and serve their own interests. One small apology after being called out is not going to change the fact that this is what Clauge thinks and what he truly believes.

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