DANVILLE – Resident Derek Cooper asked city officials for answers at the Danville City Council meeting Tuesday night after being pulled over by the Danville Police Department nine times since 2018.
Cooper, 59, an African-American veteran, is a former Decatur resident who moved to Danville in 2010 to take advantage of services offered at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System. He is a 16-year-old decorated Army Combat Ranger. He has been employed at Quaker Oats since 2013.
Cooper said his 17-year-old son will not be riding in his car with him because of the number of times he has been pulled over by police.
Cooper said if he’s done something wrong, he’ll admit it. Of the nine stops, he has received a ticket.
He said his wife wanted to have a meeting with then-mayor Scott Eisenhauer when the traffic stops began.
If the police are trying to scare you, “I’m scared,” Cooper said.
He said that police officers who are fellow veterans understand the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder that he suffers.
Cooper asked city officials if he can meet with someone “where we can handle this.”
He asked if it’s his car, himself, or if he’s driving on the wrong side of town, why he got pulled over.
“I just need some kind of answers, man,” Cooper said.
Councilmembers received a list of the traffic stops beginning in March 2018 and ending in March 2022. Reasons cited for the stops: lights out; failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign; traveling at 34 mph in a 30 mph zone; no turn signal; burnt out/dirty rear license plate light; obstructed vision, air freshener hanging from rearview mirror; solid white line crossing; and speeding.
The councilors also received a letter from Cooper’s clinical psychologist about Cooper’s PTSD.
Cooper worries that another traffic stop could cause him some sort of harm. He could push you into an emotional state that could lead to your death. He could overreact, which could cause a police officer to overreact, according to Cooper.
Additionally, the council heard from former Councilman Lloyd Randle on Cooper’s behalf.
Randle said Cooper came to him because Cooper remembered a conversation they had about Randle’s attempts to get the city to conduct a formal traffic stop study. The City of Urbana commissioned a study that reviewed traffic and minority pedestrian stops.
Randle said a search conducted today by the Illinois Department of Transportation regarding traffic stops involving African-Americans in Danville is revealing.
“African Americans are detained at least five times more than other subgroups in this community,” Randle said.
Randle asked the city for a six-year review, hire an independent firm, review the data and appoint an independent commission to determine if race plays a factor in traffic stops.
He asked council members to ask if African Americans are being pulled over more based on the percentage of our community’s population.
Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said the city takes complaints seriously and does everything possible to address citizen concerns. However, neither he nor the mayor’s office nor Human Relations Manager Sandra Finch had been informed of Cooper’s allegations before Tuesday.
“We were just notified of this today. We haven’t had any opportunity to investigate or help,” Williams said.
Williams also said that as a former council member, Randle knows the procedure for filing a police report. No one had spoken to Police Chief Chris Yates about the matter either, Williams said.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Sharon Pickering called for the city to meet with Cooper.
In other public comments, the city council heard from resident Brad Bergman about the council revising the city ordinance to allow trailers to park on residents’ private driveways.
Danville Community Development Manager Logan Cronk also announced that there is still money available for small businesses that have lost revenue due to COVID-19.
In other matters, the council approved:
- A $1 million professional services agreement with Farnsworth Group Inc. for stormwater management projects.
- A $230,830 professional services agreement with Lochmueller Group to complete a Vermilion County Safety Action Plan for the Danville Area Transportation Study. The Vermilion County Highway Department will reimburse the city up to $30,000 for the costs of the plan.
- The appointments of Zach Gwinn and Sharda Pascal to the Danville Public Library Board; and reappoint Tara Auter to the David S. Palmer Arena board, Marilyn Blanton to the Historic Preservation Commission, and Harsha Gurujal to the Vermilion Housing Authority board.
- A five-year subscription for new body cameras and support equipment for police officers for $35,147 this fiscal year and $33,492 for each of the next four years for 50 Digital Ally body cameras and three body camera docking stations.
- Purchased 934 N. Gilbert St. for the Kirchner Building Center move-in for $55,000 from Kent and Joan Janesky.
- Modification of the street budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 due to the salt purchased last year.