On the evening of July 14, Evanston police officers arrested at least three black youths and transported them to the police station in paddy wagons, according to multiple sources. One of those arrested is the son of an elected Evanston official, though names are not being released at this time because the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Two of those arrested were between the ages of 12 and 13, and they were arrested for riding on the back or the handlebars of a bicycle. The person pedaling the bike was not arrested according to multiple sources. It is unknown how many total individuals were arrested.
Speaking at the Human Services Committee meeting on Aug. 9, Karen Courtright said the youngsters were “arrested by the Evanston Police for hanging around downtown” and “placed in a paddy wagon. A metal box” then taken to the station.
“You don’t need me to tell you what color these kids were, do you?” she added.
The incident took place near the Burger King at Orrington Avenue and Clark Street, a frequent hangout for young bike riders in downtown Evanston. Ms. Courtright said the arrest had the effect of “criminalizing normal behavior.” She called for “high quality, in depth training” teaching our police department to “talk to young people rather than grab them by the arm and take them into custody.”
Alyce Barry also addressed the incident. Pointing to statistics obtained by the organization OPAL detailing the number of juveniles arrested, she called for more specific numbers “specifying the race, gender, age and reason for the arrest… are white kids arrested on similar charges?” If not, she said, the cause is implicit bias.
“An arrest is a traumatic experience for a young person,” added Ms. Barry.
The two 12-year-olds arrested were both released without any charges filed, a process known as a “station adjustment.” Nevertheless, an arrest report was filed in at least one case, and will have to be expunged.
Ms. Courtright said an arrest is “harmful regardless of the outcome of any specific issue.” She pointed to a study showing an adversarial interaction with the police leads to a lack of trust and suspicion between black men and the police in the future.
Betty Ester said she feared the incident showed a return to different times. “It used to be black kids went to the station, white kids stayed at the theater to wait for parents to pick them up,” she said. “Boys on a bike. What was the crime?” she asked. “When I was younger, and stupider, and braver, I did that. But I was not arrested.”
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, urged the community to wait for the process to unfold. “The incident that was brought up is currently under investigation. The Chief [Chief of Police Richard Eddington] is on vacation. When he gets back, there will be a meeting between the Chief and the families to dig deeper into the situation,” he said. “I speak for myself. I am concerned any time I hear about a 12-year old – any resident – being arrested for riding on a bike. At the proper time, after an investigation, we will have more information to share publicly,” he said.
Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said she would ask the Chief for the demographic information broken down as requested by Ms. Barry, as much information as could be provided given the fact those arrested were juveniles.
Deputy Chief James Pickett said the police would have no comment on the incident until the investigation has been completed.