- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Former U.S. Marshal Robert Moore of Springfield has long worked to make police departments more representative of the population, and to carry out their duty fairly and respectfully.

He serves as chair of the criminal justice committee for Illinois branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and is a consultant on police procedures and community relations.

The NAACP in recent years has partnered with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, getting officials of more than 190 departments to sign on to 10 principles concerning police-community relations, including rejecting discrimination and treating all people with dignity and respect. The principles also promote deescalation training. Teresa Haley, the statewide leader of the NAACP, said her organization and the chiefs worked together to create the principles following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

In light of the May 25 death of George Floyd, whose neck was under the knee of a then-Minneapolis police officer for more than eight minutes, there have been demonstrations across the U.S. - including in Peoria and Pekin - and in other countries, against police brutality. Moore says he’s encouraged, according to The State Journal-Register.

“I’m so hopeful and so gratified to see white America vocalizing their disgust at the present system … and how Black folks are being treated in America,” Moore said recently. “The other thing I’m very hopeful about is the fact that I’m seeing white police chiefs taking a stand … on racism in their departments and across this nation.” He said white and African-American chiefs have often been silent on such issues in the past.

Moore, 76, said he likes the idea of licensing police officers, as some including Gov. J.B. Pritzker are considering.

“I think that’s the direction that we’re going to have to go, because no matter what we do in the police world, we’re going to have rogue police officers (who) have to be controlled,” he said.

Moore also likes the idea of banning choke holds, but said there is a discussion about allowing an exception to save an officer’s or someone else’s life.

“That’s being debated and I think that it’s going to have to be there,” he said of the caveat. Such choke holds already go against Peoria police practice.

Asked about defunding police, he said, “We really can’t support that type of philosophy. … We understand the role of the police. … What we do need is … some new strategies for how we police the Afro-American community. The way we police it right now causes distrust. It causes all kinds of problems for us but it causes problems nationwide.”

On the issue of “qualified immunity,” a legal doctrine that protects police officers from civil lawsuits in many cases while doing their jobs, Moore said it will “have to be looked at.”

“I think the whole thing has gotten tilted too far toward the police,” he said. “When you do that, you will have police doing everything they can to stretch those rules.”

He said “wholehearted change” would be too radical, but there should be some adjustments.

“The Miranda warnings came out of … police abusing their authority, and so I think the time has now come for us to change this process here on police brutality and excessive force.”

Moore and Ed Wojcicki, executive executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, have given more than 20 talks across the state about the 10 principles.

Through the Land of Lincoln Chapter of the National Organization of Black Police Executives, Moore did a study for the city of Springfield in 2016 and 2017, making recommendations on minority recruitment, retention, career development and police-community relations. That issue has also been a focus for Peoria city leaders and the local chapter of the NAACP.

In his adopted home of Springfield, Moore sees some of the same problems in relations between police and, particularly, African-American men, as are seen across the country.

“We use racial profiling in our community,” Moore said. “We use dogs in our community. We use consent-stop searches - all these things that cause uneasiness,” and hurt trust.

Searching cars after traffic stops, he said, is “out of control here in Springfield.”

Nationwide, he said, “We’re killing Black folks.” He said an Illinois example is Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who died when shot by a Chicago policeman 16 times in 2014. Video showed McDonald was walking away from officers when the shooting began. The police officer who shot him was sentenced to more than six years in prison.

Moore also said that the fact so may Springfield police live outside of the city is “totally unacceptable.” He faulted the union representing patrol officers and detectives, Police Benevolent & Protective Association Unit 5, as having “no relationship” with the community because so many members live out of town.

“How can you have community policing when you don’t have police living in your community?” Moore said.

City officials said that in late June, 149 officers on the force, which has an authorized strength of 250, had Springfield addresses.

President Bill Clinton named Moore marshal in the 46-county Central District of Illinois in 1994, which includes Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties. He served until 2002. A native of Mississippi and an Army veteran, he was a deputy sheriff in Winnebago County before his dozen years with the Illinois State Police - where he was named, after three years, to be equal employment opportunity director for the agency. There, he worked to implement a consent decree that ordered more hiring of minorities and women.

In 1983, Moore wrote an article about how to increase the number of Black police executives. It was published by the Justice Department, and Moore has said it became a model for the nation. In 2011, he self-published a book called “The Presidents’ Men: Black United States Marshals in America.”

He was also deputy police chief in Savannah, Georgia, for 2 ½ years, running criminal investigations, and served for three years as police chief in Jackson, Mississippi.

In the early 1990s, Moore was instrumental in getting a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. moved from an obscure location in the Capitol Complex to its prominent location at the northeast corner of Second Street and Capitol Avenue. He said he worked with then-Secretary of State George Ryan on the issue, and “We’re forever grateful for Secretary Ryan for paying for that statue to be moved.”

This past week, House Speaker Michael Madigan called for moving the statue to a more prominent position still.

He said he is a Democrat, and hopes former Vice President Joe Biden will be elected to replace Republican President Donald Trump.

He said Trump’s words and actions “come down on the side of being a racist person.”

“Our democracy is in trouble,” Moore said. “Our institutions are in trouble. We’ve never seen a president use this type of language, and he is going to have an effect upon our youth for years to come. … We have got to return that office to a thing that we can all be proud of.”

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