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Since I’ve lived in Evanston, I’ve had many interactions with members of the Evanston Police Department. I’ve encountered polite, sensitive, professional police officers (the good ones); insensitive, unprofessional officers (the bad ones); and mean, got-to-show-you-who’s-got-the-gun officers (the ugly ones).

The good officers help negate some of the negative behavior of the bad and ugly ones, but not all of it. Scars remain with people who have been harassed, threatened or physically abused by the police because of their race, age, gender, sexual orientation or religion or because of their association with members of a given group or just because. The Evanston Police Department has left its share of scars, too.

Evanston police officers have responded (off and on) to complaints about noise from a neighborhood business. Responding officers say they can’t ticket the business because the “noise is not excessive” (even though the noise can be heard 75 feet away) and/or the noise is occurring during the hours noise is permitted. The consensus of most people I’ve talked to about the noise from this business is that it would have already been shut down if it were owned by someone black or brown. Personal experience with or knowledge of unfair treatment of blacks and browns (and others) in America (past and present) predispose folks to conclude that racism raises its ugly head in many situations.

Most of the responding officers have been polite, but last week an officer was so rude that I forgot she was the one with a gun and told her to shut up.
My tiff with this particular officer started when I echoed what others said – that the business making the noise would have already been shut down if the owners were black or brown. The officer told me to explain what I meant, but when I started to explain, she started talking over me. That’s when I told the officer to shut up. The officer reacted with, “Are you telling me to shut up?” “Yes,” I shouted, “You told me to explain but you’re talking over me.” Do I advise or encourage anyone to tell an officer to shut up? No, I don’t.

In the documentary “Colorblind,” black and brown people talk about ways to minimize the potential for abuse by the police and that they have to teach this to their children.

Foolish me! My distress had got the better of me. I had mistakenly thought that after telling this officer how stressed and agitated I was from having to endure the noise from the business for hours that this officer would be as sympathetic and professional as other officers had been. I obviously made a mistake. So was this officer good, bad or ugly? Cross out “good.”

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...