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A year after Miller shooting, Flossmoor’s efforts focus on communications, mental health response 

Note: This version of the story differs from the one that appears in the Chronicle’s July 1 print edition. We removed a passage regarding the appointment of Police Chief Jerel Jones that Mayor Michelle Nelson and village trustees said was inaccurate and racist. The sentence suggested Jones was hired as Flossmoor’s first Black police chief in response to calls for policing reform. In a letter to the Chronicle editors, Nelson asserted Jones was appointed based entirely on his qualifications after an extensive search, as the Chronicle previously reported.

The Chronicle apologizes to Chief Jones and to the mayor and village board. We did not intend to in any way diminish his qualifications or suggest the village does not follow proper hiring practices.

This version also emphasizes that the CESSA program is the responsibility of the state, not the village.

On Monday, July 10, one year has passed since Madeline Miller was shot and killed by Flossmoor police responding to a domestic disturbance call. Miller’s death was traumatic for her family, and it threw the village into a crisis as local and outside activists launched a protest movement on Miller’s behalf.

Mayor Michelle Nelson said the village has not been idle in recent months and has been working since Miller’s death to heal rifts and enact changes in community relations and mental health response. In a statement posted on its website on June 23, officials outlined a number of initiatives, including the first steps in a local mental health response program.

Focus on community relations
After several months of tense board meetings in 2022 roiled by vocal protesters demanding justice for Miller, the village convened a community forum on Oct. 29 to provide residents an opportunity to air their views and ask questions. The forum, too, was disrupted at times by protesters, but it also included break-out sessions with outside facilitators on hand to help guide discussion.

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Trustees later reported that the forum received mixed reviews from participants.

Nelson then asked the village’s Community Relations Commission to come up with recommendations for how the village should respond to the situation.

On March 6, the commission presented its recommendations to Nelson and the board. The focus was on improving communication among the village, the police and residents; building relationships between police and community members; and ensuring that diversity, equity and inclusion are embraced.

Village officials noted efforts are under way to implement the commission’s recommendation to strengthen transparency and communications, including efforts to use technology to share more crime data on the village website. 

Trustees approved updates to the village social media policy in order to enable the police department to create its own Facebook and Instagram pages.

“We’re excited to be moving forward with these initiatives, because we know that by sharing information, we are better positioned to strengthen the bond between the police and the community they serve,” officials said.

Mental health response
The village has also continued to pursue the addition of alternative mental health response services. Village officials said they had begun exploring options for new mental health response options prior to Miller’s death.

In 2021, the state legislature passed the Community Emergency Services and Supports Act (CESSA). However, developing the response resources required by staffing call centers and response units is taking some time.

Flossmoor Village Manager Bridget Wachtel has been working with the local emergency dispatch center, ECom, to prepare for implementation of the new law.

In its June 2023 village website statement, village officials noted that the state’s progress on the CESSA program has been slower than anticipated, and implementation could still be a year away.

In the meantime, the village has started developing a program with existing local resources.

“Grand Prairie Services and the other participating organizations have committed to training EMS and law enforcement to develop relationships, provide awareness of their organizations’ services and integrate their services in responding to mental health calls when appropriate,” officials said in the statement. “This work will continue aggressively because we know the need is only increasing, and we cannot wait for state mandates to address this critical challenge.”

Nelson noted that the partnership with Grand Prairie Services has already resulted in “a positive outcome in an incident involving a mental health crisis.”

Flossmoor officials caution that even when CESSA is fully implemented, mental health response teams will not respond to calls for service that involve a weapon or when a threat of violence is involved.

“Officers will respond to calls for service involving threats of physical injury to self or others like the July 10, 2022, incident,” officials said in the recent statement.

Investigation remains incomplete
While village officials have continued to work on new initiatives in response to the tragedy on July 10, 2022, there is nothing new to report on the state’s investigation into the police response that resulted in Miller’s death.

In response to a Chronicle inquiry, a State’s Attorney’s Office spokesperson said on June 20, 2023, that the results of the investigation are pending. “We have no updates to provide at this time.”

In the June 2023 village statement, officials noted that the Flossmoor Police Department reviewed the incident, including review of body camera footage and interviews with witnesses and concluded that “the two officers responded in accordance with the Flossmoor Police Department’s Use of Force policy.”

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