In December, Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal held a mass meeting to voice complaints about policing with Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner. An upcoming vote over a police substation on Jefferson St. in West Bloomington spurred their actions. After the substation was re-named a community house, and the lease modified to address some of the concerns, the Bloomington City Council voted unanimously to accept the lease from Mid Central Community Action. During the vote, members of Black Lives Matter stood with signs, pleading with their elected officials to reject the lease.
Despite their ultimate defeat in the Jefferson Street Community House, the group continues to fight. Chief Heffner and the Bloomington Police are the recipients of the group’s criticism. In a statement published on February 16, Black Lives Matter said, “Despite clear evidence of disproportionate police practices, Chief Brendan Heffner denies any connection between race and enforcement outcomes.”
Racialized police practices were revealed locally in a report published on February 12 by Julie Prandi and the American Civil Liberties Union. Bloomington Police stopped black residents at a rate of 11.7 times per 1,000 compared to 2.85 per 1,000 for white residents for a six month period. Prandi told The Pantagraph,”One thing that stands out to me is how often people — especially blacks — are frisked with no results.” Stop-and-frisk policies originate from the New York City Police Department’s “Broken Windows” strategy. For these tactics, suspicion of future wrong doing is adequate cause to stop a resident to search their person. Opponents of “stop-and-frisk” say it allows racial stereotypes to guide police practices, and is ineffective at preventing crime.
Chief Heffner defended the practices telling WJBC’s Susan Saunders, “Pedestrian stops and frisks, when warranted and legal, they help us get get and guns off the streets,” and that such stops take place in high crime areas. Black Lives Matter countered Chief Heffner’s statements on February 16 posting on Facebook, “While the data indicates a dragnet imposed on Bloomington’s black residents, BPD Police Chief Brendan Heffner denies any implication of racial disproportionalities in his department’s enforcement practices.”
On February 1, Black Lives Matter participated in the Minority And Police Partnership meeting, which Heffner described as productive. Black Lives Matter said that there was agreement in “the need for ongoing conversation.”
Black Lives Matter’s next meeting is at 8PM on Thursday, February 23. For more information, message their Facebook page.