As a two-term Alderman and graduate of the Evanston Citizen Police Academy, I have enormous respect for the brave men and women of the Evanston Police Department who put their lives on the line every day to protect all of Evanston’s citizens. We owe a huge debt of gratitude, not only to these men and women, but to the husbands, wives, children and parents who support and worry about them every minute that they are on the job.
I believe that any bias reflected in our policing is the result of how and where we are focusing our efforts rather than any personal bias, prejudice or ill will on the part of the first responders who serve this community. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Police Chief Eddington and Police Commander Dugan who have, throughout the entire time that I have known them, demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fairness, justice and the overall safety and well-being of our City. Evanston has a police force that looks like the city it polices and that is a good thing.
Since I joined the Council, I have worked to create greater trust between our officers and our residents. I have worked with Chief Eddington and outside experts to adopt training and programs designed to de-escalate the use of force in our policing. As an example, the Evanston Police Department now provides training to emphasize the use of non-lethal weapons such as Tasers over guns wherever possible.
And I have not been afraid to ask tough questions or to push for accountability about how we are fighting crime in Evanston. The recent UNC Chapel Hill Study showing that persons of color are more likely to be searched following a traffic stop in Evanston than virtually anywhere else in the country was concerning to anyone who cares about our City — including Chief Eddington and Commander Dugan. In response to the Study, I have asked Chief Eddington to provide a detailed analysis of post stop searches (by precinct or beat) so that we all can understand whether this disparity exists City-wide or is confined to areas of “targeted policing” and regardless of the answer to that question, to provide evidence demonstrating why the department believes that targeted policing is the most effective means of reducing crime in Evanston. For example, I believe that we should be looking at programs adopted by cities that have affirmatively rejected “Stop and Frisk” methods (like New York City). This is a discussion that needs to happen with the Police, the public and the representatives of the wards most impacted by violent crime but it is a discussion that we must have and one that I believe I am most qualified to lead.
Similarly, we need to continue the City-wide discussion that we are having regarding the oversight of the Police Complaint Review Process. When a citizen makes a complaint against an Evanston Police Officer, that complaint is reviewed internally by the Evanston Police Department Office of Professional Standards. That office is charged with evaluating the complaint and making recommendations regarding the disposition of the complaint to the Police Chief who makes the ultimate decision on any corrective or disciplinary actions to take against the officer or officers involved. Currently, those decisions are subject to review by a committee appointed by the Mayor (the Citizens Police Advisory Committee) and then by the Human Services Committee. A group of concerned citizens have expressed an interest in revisiting this process and have asked for a chance to form a task force that would study alternative ways of providing oversight. The Human Services Committee agreed this month to give this group an additional two months to propose the make up of this task force. It would be inappropriate for me to pre-judge or try to influence that group’s deliberations (either in my capacity as Chair of the Human Services Committee or as a candidate for the position of Mayor). What I can say is that I am committed to doing everything I can to build greater trust between the police and the public and to ensure that our oversight processes are consistent with best practices in the country.
In terms of combating crime more broadly, I have been an outspoken advocate for treating the root causes of crime in our City. The best way to combat crime before it starts is to provide good jobs, affordable housing, and better access to mental health and substance abuse treatment for our economically disadvantaged residents.