BELVIDERE (WREX) — Dozens of people showed up to Belvidere City Hall Monday night in response to a recent 13 Investigates special report.
That report detailed allegations of excessive force and misconduct within the police department. Two groups organized a demonstration for the city meeting, some in a show of support for officers, others in a show of support for alleged victims of police misconduct.
Those in support of police wore blue to show solidarity with the force. They filled nearly every seat in council chambers. Meanwhile, the other group filled the hallway, waiting to share their stores of alleged abuse at the hands of police.
"The physical abuse, the verbal abuse, All because of the way I look," said Antonio Sanchez.
"I have family here, I have a daughter here. I would just like peace of mind that the police are here to protect and serve me. Not harass me. Not make me feel scared," said Anthony Urban.
13 News asked multiple people who came out in support of police if they'd like to comment on camera. One person agreed.
"We need to join together and it makes me sad because Belvidere is a great town, and for you guys to feel hate or sadness or broken, it breaks my heart," said Magnolia Escamilla, who came to support Belvidere police.
With no plan on the agenda to talk about the police department, both sides came to a head outside council chambers. For hours they debated and argued until Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody stepped in.
"You wouldn't still be here if you didn't want to still have this conversation. Let's go back and have an open dialogue," said Woody.
While more than a dozen people had already left City Hall by this time, a large group still filled council chambers. And for the first time on camera, Chief Woody and Mayor Mike Chamberlain addressed the 13 Investigates report. Mayor Chamberlain said he completely supports the police department.
"We don't beat up people. We subdue them and take them to the ground so we can control the situation," he said.
"People believe they have rights to resist, to not comply. When that truly just isn't the case. That makes it more dangerous for you, for us," said Woody.
Chief Woody said he is committed to serving the people of Belvidere and listening to those who have problems with the force.
"I'm not the type of person that shies away from the knowledge that we may not be doing everything exactly the way we want to. And that's how you grow. That's how you get better," said Woody.
The nearly four-hour night ended civilly, even with a few hugs between both groups. But a solution to the issue dividing the groups is still unknown, and the question remains over what the next step is.
A Belvidere alderwoman said she was disturbed by what she saw in our 13 Investigates report. She wants the matter added to the city council agenda next week for formal discussion.