After reading the article “Seventh Circuit Affirms EPD Officer’s Qualified Immunity in Child-Handcuffing Case” (Mary Gavin, Evanston RoundTable, August 27, 2015), I could not imagine how frustrated (angry?) the family of the handcuffed youth must be.  The description of the clothing worn by the African American youth that was handcuffed did not match the description of the clothing the suspect was wearing.  But…probably ’cause the handcuffed youth was a young African American male, he automatically qualified as a suspect. 

Years ago, when I was advisor to the high school aged offshoot of the (long-ago-defunct) Evanston Youth Commission, black male members of the group talked about being stopped (harassed) by police officers that assumed they were up to no good.  They also talked about high school staff treating them like current or future criminals.  They assumed (as did I) that this harassment was probably ’cause they were black.  My daughters, in spite of their good academic standing, also reported incidents of discrimination and negative comments probably ’cause they too were phenotypically black. 

Approximately a year ago, an Evanston police officer wrote up an incident report against me (an African American) but not against the white male that was with me when we knocked on the window of a business to ask them to quiet down.  The white male was included in the complaint as “an unknown white male” even though his identity was known.  This white male told me that he went over to the business that evening alone to confront the business about the noise, but no incident report was written up about him, probably ’cause he was (is) white. 

During a public meeting many years ago, an Evanston Police officer told those assembled that police officers can always come up with a reason for their actions against citizens.  Thank goodness the American Civil Liberties Union has criticized communities for “having stopped and checked a disproportionate number of blacks”  (Warner Todd Houston Aug. 7, 2015, Chicago), thus showing that it is not one’s imagination that citizens are being targeted probably ’cause they’re black.

It’s sad that Evanston, a community that likes to boast about its diversity, is not unlike other parts of the USA that are alleged to harass and intimidate black citizens probably ’cause police officers can manufacture/produce probable cause.

Without a doubt, there are good Evanston police officers that treat citizens fairly and respectfully without regard to color.  Unfortunately, a few bad apples in the Police Department (and government) can spoil the bunch.

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...