RANTOUL — The village might loosen the testing restrictions that pertain to the hiring of village police officers.

Some residents also are asking for the hiring of more minorities by the village as a whole.

Police Chief Tony Brown asked the village board to allow for a continuous police officer testing program by the fire and police commission.

He said the police department has been working on ways to improve the recruiting process and to create a more diverse applicant pool.

“One of the difficulties is we test once every two years or once a year,” Brown said at last week’s village board study session. “When we do identify someone who we believe would be good officer candidates, it takes too long before we can test.”

He said the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office and the Champaign and Urbana police departments already have a continuous testing process.

Another roadblock is that no one older than 35 may become a new police officer.

Resident Debbra Sweat said she read an article that talked about older adults being better qualified as police officers and that women are still underrepresented in law enforcement. She said only one Black person and “three to four” Latinos are on the police force.

Brown said there are “four to five” females, four Hispanics and one Black person within the department..

“Our philosophy is we need to have an organization that’s representative of the community we serve,” Brown said. “In a perfect world, half the work force would be female. We definitely need to get African American police officers. It’s been a challenge. We’ve been working to identify Black police officers as well as Hispanic and Asian.”

Sweat, in her public comments, pointed to  “seven or eight” minorities being employed by the village out of 130 people.

“To my knowledge,” Sweat said, “not one minority serves in a supervisory role. They have seniority and are asked to train White co-workers who receive the promotions and salary increases and remain the lowest paid.”

Sweat asked the village to create an independent review/audit of hiring practices, job descriptions, salaries/compensation and promotions.

Resident Tracy Williams also pointed to the number of minorities employed by the village and said the village “has a lot of work to do to make the town equitable for employment and career advancement.”

Also, Brown said only the top eight candidates, scoring-wise, can be interviewed.

The amendment will be among the items to be voted on at the board’s regular meeting Aug. 11.

He also asked the position of lieutenant be changed to deputy chief. The change won’t create a new rank or provide additional compensation.

Other business

Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said in late September he and urban planning manager Chris Milliken will be presenting a “districting road show” to explain to residents in each of the new village board districts about the election process “(for) anyone who might be interested in running for (village board) and slightly address the referendum in November as it relates to staggered terms.”

They will also explain what is expected of a trustee or elected official.

“I think sometimes people feel as though you show up the first and second Tuesday of each month, you’re here for a few minutes and you collect the big fat paycheck and go home,” Eisenhauer said, adding there’s more work to it than that.

The dates, times and locations of the district meetings will be announced at the September board study session.

Eisenhauer said he and Comptroller Pat Chamberlin will be evaluating the revenue of the first quarter of the fiscal year to give an idea of the impact of the coronavirus on village finances. He said he will bring a report on those findings in September.

“It will help us as we make decisions about revenue and expenses for the rest of this budget year,” Eisenhauer said.

ATV restrictions

Brown presented an ordinance change proposal in regard to the operation of all-terrain vehicles in the community.

It would make it illegal for most people to operate an ATV in a residential area as well as on village streets and parks. Exemptions include municipal-owned ATVs as well as those used in parades and other such community events as well as on-site business operations.

Trustee Mark Wilkerson asked how many complaints had been received about ATV use. Brown said they have primarily come from one person, “who said she has spoken with her neighbors, “and we got complaints from other parts of town.”

Brown said the problem is the noise. One person said he has seen ATVs being ridden on bike/walking paths.

“One of the big issues is Mahoney trailer park (now Rancho Rantoul Estates),” Brown said. “That’s where the complaints are coming from, all the noise. Around Briarcliff and Maplewood.”

Added Wilkerson: “My concern is I like freedom, and I don’t like to tell someone what they can or cannot do on their own property as long as it’s within reason. I understand public areas. It would be fun to have an ATV park inside Rantoul, maybe out on base somewhere. I’m not saying we should do it, but it would be nice.”

Wilkerson said he understands the proposal.

Human relations committee

Mayor Chuck Smith said he had been working on additional appointments to the human relations committee and said he was “quite pleased” by the number of people who had been recommended or stepped forward for consideration.

“A lot of talent has come our way, so we’re fortunate to have that in our community,” Smith said.

Smith said he hoped to have the final names available prior to the Aug. 11 regular board meeting.

Previously, Smith named  Sherry Faulkner, Herm Fogal, Kelly Foster, Tony Peyton and John Vasquez Jr. to the panel and said he planned to add more members.

The committee is designed “to reduce prejudice and discrimination” in the community based on race, religion, national origin, cultural background, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability and other factors.

Trustee discusses not wearing face mask

Wilkerson said he wanted to explain why he doesn’t wear a face mask at the board meetings.

He said he doesn’t wear the masks while “sitting in a chair away from everyone.”

Wilkerson said it is “medically intolerable” for him to wear a mask.

“I wear them when I feel it’s appropriate. With these panels here, no one’s in front of me. I don’t feel like I need to wear a mask for my health or for anyone else around me,” Wilkerson said.

He asked that if anyone has a complaint about him to direct it to him, not to the mayor.

Employee retiring

Eisenhauer announced community services officer Danny Russell planned to retire Dec. 8. He has worked with the village since 1990.

He said Russell had earned vacation and sick leave payments of $23,351.

The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund payments will increase by $235 per month. The effect on the payment on liability to the village will total $42,252.

Public comments

Sweat thanked the mayor and Ken Turner (grants management and HUD administrator) for her interview for the human relations committee and added, “I hope after 12 years of inactivity, the group, along with other like concerned citizens, Rantoul Reformed and other citizens and allies like me will continue to address racism, discrimination and other concerns afflicting African Americans and others in the community.”

Sweat also proposed Century Boulevard be designated “Honorary Tuskegee Airmen Drive” — noting Rantoul has “capitalized on the notoriety and accomplishments of the Airmen,” whose squadron was activated at Chanute just prior to the U.S. involvement in World War II.

Sweat also reminded the board that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. She said domestic violence is a continuing problem in Rantoul — a weekly occurrence as reflected in the Rantoul Press police report.

She asked what the status of Rantoul’s event or educational program is and said it is an opportunity to involve the chamber of commerce.

She said since the May death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, corporate America and some municipalities in the country have explored ways to support the African American community.

She asked the mayor and board to consider “moving any and all federal, state and local funds received and used targeting low-income and minorities to a community development financial institution” as a good-faith effort in support of equality and equity “unless it already exists.”

Sweat said such institutions “assist the marginalized and underrepresented with financial needs and opportunities.”

She said one of the few of those institutions in Illinois is the Community Plus Federal Credit Union in Rantoul.

During her turn to speak during public comments, Williams thanked the mayor for meeting with her and MarQues Reed  from Rantoul Reformed, which is a local organization designed to combat racism in the community.

She also cited a comment made by the mayor and village administrator that Black people don’t get involved. She said they provided a list of Black people who want to participate in the town and due to encouragement by the organization, they are “pushing forward.”

“My hope is that the mayor chooses two minorities to be additional members of the human relations committee — a committee required by (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to hear and help with acts of discrimination.”

Williams also informed the board she had spoken at the citizens advisory committee meeting and told of her concerns about the five-year plan.

She said the highest area of need addressing proper housing, homelessness and other areas is in the Black community.

“However, no one consulted with organizations that can assist in dismantling and aiding in dealing with the affecting of systemic racism,” Williams said.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com