In October of 2009, the City of Champaign experienced a major tragedy with the accidental shooting death of an unarmed 15-year old boy by a Champaign police officer. This event strained the social fabric of the community and residents publicly expressed their concerns about the shooting and other community issues. Since its founding, the Coalition has approached solutions-development as a collective issue, bringing together diverse individuals and organizations in order to identify, support and expand effective “strengths-based programs” throughout Champaign County. Through a combination of monthly meetings and a strategically diverse array of community programming, the Community Coalition creates opportunities for open communication and joint problem-solving.
On March 15, 2010, the Community Forum brought together over 300 students, parents, educators, law enforcement and citizens to address such questions as: What do good police-community relations look like? What are police barriers to good police-community relations, and what steps can be taken to eliminate those barriers? This forum created an opportunity for wider engagement by residents to collectively work through questions of community interest in a focused setting. This forum uniquely fostered cross-demographic and cross-profession conversation, to bring in alternative viewpoints for considered reflection.
The City of Champaign founded the Coalition as a strategy to achieve the goals of the Community Forum Working Group. This was an important and innovative first step for repairing unsettled police community relations and youth issues in the Champaign community. The Community Coalition’s responsibilities included identifying, coordinating, and linking together community programs and resources; as well as researching, identifying, evaluating, and developing strategies to address poverty, youth instability and police-community relations.
The Community Coalition
Initial community partners were identified to create a plan to formalize a community response. The result was the formation of the Community Coalition; a collaborative effort that developed a theme of working together for the good of the community. The idea was a simple one; share resources and build upon existing programs already in place in the community. By working together and “Walking as One”, the community is better equipped to address police-community relationships and the social problems facing youth.