U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin met with faith and community leaders in Springfield over the weekend at Union Baptist Church to discuss legislation to address police conduct.
Durbin said the measure - set to be introduced this week - would include a ban on the use of chokeholds, outline acceptable use of force by officers, and make recommendations on recruitment and training. He’s joining Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, both former Democratic presidential candidates, in sponsoring the Justice In Policing Act.
Still, Durbin told leaders in Springfield that change must begin at home, on the local and state level.
“The likelihood that we will pass something in Congress and be signed by this president that could change things across America dramatically is a long, long shot,” Durbin said. “We need to try to do it on a bipartisan basis.”
While some protestors have called for the government to defund the police, Durbin said the country should spend additional money to retrain police and do periodic investigations of all officers.
Leaders who attended the open dialogue discussion included Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner, Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory, Sunshine Clemons, leader of Black Lives Matter Springfield, and Johnathan Franklin, president of the Springfield Ministerial Alliance.
Turner said she and Gregory are putting together a list of measures that she hopes result in lasting changes.
“We are looking at some things in regards to the police department such as a different type of training we’d like to see happen, and some diversity with regards to boards and commissions related to making changes within the police department,” said Turner.
Turner said she stands with Springfield’s police chief, Kenny Winslow, because he has done everything he can to move the police department forward in regards to community policing.
However, she still feels more needs to be done from a policy standpoint.
“Change within the halls of law enforcement is difficult, and there is a culture that has to be changed,” the alderwoman said. “The only way it could get changed is by implementing some real benchmarks and standards to hold people accountable.”
Durbin also said an understanding of history could help with reform efforts.
"If we think that the slaves were freed after the Civil War and everything was fine after, you just don't know history,” Durbin said. “What happened in the Civil war, what happened with Jim Crow, what happened during the Great Migration...all of that says we did not do what we said we'd do."
Durbin said the capital city hasn’t done enough to recognize Springfield’s role in the history of African Americans.
Federal legislation is still pending to have the site of the Springfield 1908 Race Riots named a national monument.
Durbin, who attended a rally and march on Sunday in Springfield, encouraged leaders to continue to use their constitutional rights to protest and express their feelings.