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As they had promised at Human Services Committee meetings in October and December, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Police Chief Richard Eddington unveiled several new police policies and procedures at the Feb. 6 Human Services Committee meeting.
These new policies and procedures, they said, were results of recommendations by diversity consultant Gilo Kwesi Logan as well as responses to viewing the videos of the arrest of Lawrence Crosby in October of 2015.
At the Council level, over the past two years, Ninth Ward Alderman Brian Miller has been pressing for de-escalation training and strategies within the police department.
Although only six aldermen sit on the Committee, the full City Council – all nine aldermen and the Mayor – attended the meeting. For some Council members and many of the residents who came to the meeting, the list of 22 changes and innovations represented only a beginning of the work that they said needs to be done to improve police relations with the City’s minority communities.
Mr. Bobkiewicz praised Chief Eddington but made the bulk of the presentation himself, saying as City Manager he “owns” the problems, particularly the recent concerns arising from the arrests of Devon Reid and Mr. Crosby, “and I own that we need to move forward.
“We as a City must minimize police-community incidents so those like Crosby and Reid will not recur. We must work with the community on larger plans.
“I can’t do this alone. Chief Eddington can’t do this alone. We need the help of individuals and the community as you see fit [to engage them].”
Evanston’s police officers, Mr. Bobkiewicz said, will cooperate with the new procedures but they want to know that they have the support of the Police Department, City government, and the community.
Changes in Policy and Procedure
The changes in the Police Department include offering more frequent training in sensitive issues, making it easier to make complaints against police officers and to see the disposition of those complaints, a rollout of body-worn cameras, the dissolution of one police review group, and the creation of two new positions within the department.
Some of these changes will be implemented immediately; others may take a few months, but the expectation is that they will be in full force by year’s end.
The role of residents in the review and oversight of complaints against police officers, however, remained unresolved at the Feb. 6 meeting.
Training: Police officers will receive training in de-escalation techniques and strategies, in the use of force, and in how to deal with subjects in crisis or who are dealing with mental health problems. Telecommunicators for 911calls will also receive additional training.
Transparency: A Police Department statistic dashboard will be presented at each Human Services Committee meeting beginning in March, 2017. The Dashboard will include monthly statistics on the numbers of calls for service, contact cards issued, felony arrests, misdemeanor arrests, traffic stops, traffic tickets, use of force incidents, and citizen complaints and commendations. These will also be posted on the EPD website. The Department will post monthly crime statistics on its website and will add weekly deployment crime maps to the Department’s weekly email “In the Squad Room.”
Ald. Miller requested that demographics be included in these reports.
Procedural Changes: Procedural changes promised will touch nearly all divisions within the Police Department. As examples, police officers will no longer arrest a subject for refusing to give personal information for a contact card but will only note the refusal; a new position, a Corporate Compliance Sergeant, will be part of the Office of Professional Standards to monitor compliance with all training standards; and all police officers will have body-worn cameras, with the rollout beginning July 1 and fully implemented by Jan. 1, 2018.
By Sept.1, the Police Department will implement use of Lexipol, “an online service that provides state-specific policies that are customizable and vetted by law enforcement professionals, attorneys and subject-matter experts to provide consistent, uniform policies that properly reflect federal and state law as well as law enforcement best practices,” according to the City.
By May 1, the Evanston Police Department will adopt the National Consensus Policy on Use of Force through incorporation in General Orders. This will include the Department’s policies on de-escalation. By the same time, the Department will create a Use of Force Committee to review all incidents. The review will include officers outside the chain of command of officers involved in an incident.
To help with police-community relations, a member of the Problem Solving Team will focus on programs and initiatives that will enhance police/community relations Citywide. This will include community education on Police procedure and crime prevention issues.
Citizen Complaint Process: At present, most complaints against police officers are made in person at the Police Department. The Department will now accept statement by video. In addition a police officer from the Office of Professional standards will have regular hours at the Civic Center to accept complaints.
Policies About Arrests: At the Jan. 30 police open house, Chief Eddington said the Police Department was getting rid of its policy, “If we put our hands on you, we have to arrest you.”
Chief Eddington told the RoundTable the change is cultural rather than procedural. “In the past, before cameras, if no charges were filed, there was a perception that the police were not documenting the event. In the age of digital recording, there is no issue with the documenting of an event,” he said.
Shawn Jones, a local attorney and candidate for Ninth Ward Alderman, spoke of the damage that an arrest record – even without a conviction – can do to a young person. In addition to the humiliation and other personal discomfort, the fact of an arrest can prevent someone from getting a job.
Mr. Jones also said the City’s Corporation Counsel should ease up on prosecuting people, particularly youth, for violations of City ordinances. He referred to incidents of arresting young adults for riding bicycles without a light at night. Prosecuting these youth and leaving them with an arrest record “closes the door for many youth,” he said. He said he has worked to help youth get their records expunged, as do staff at the Moran Center.
Ald. Miller said “We really need to review how our Corporation Counsel and our City Council act as municipal prosecutors. … A simple arrest can affect someone’s future.”
At present there are three police-resident groups that meet to discuss police policies and procedures: the Evanston Police Advisory Committee, begun under the previous Chief of Police, Frank Kaminski, and composed of members appointed by him and later by Chief Eddington; the Mayor-appointed Citizen Police Advisory Committee (CPAC); and the Evanston Citizen Police Association, composed of representatives of local businesses. The Chief-appointed committee will be dissolved, and the other two committees will continue to meet, and the Human Services Committee will continue to review the disposition of complaints against police officers.
Several residents have been working toward the creation of a more independent review board with the power to investigate incidents and strengthen the accountability of police officers. The group has coalesced over the past several months as the Citizens Network of Protection (CNP).
At the Dec. 6 Human Services Committee meeting, Betty Ester, one of the residents who worked on the original 2008 CPAC resolution and a member of CNP, said she believed that the CPAC was created to be “a bridge to a fully independent police review board.”
Several residents at the Feb. 6 Human Services Committee meeting spoke in support of an independent police review board, and many said they would like to be part of the process of developing it. Reverend Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church, President of the Evanston/ North Shore branch of the NAACP, said simply disbanding the Chief-appointed committee and continuing the mayor-appointed committee deprived residents of participation in the process of creating a committee or board with meaningful power.
“We need a strategic plan. You can’t do this by going to the back room and coming up with a plan,” said Rev. Nabors.
Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson said he felt the two remaining police groups – the business groups and the mayor-appointed group – could get together to come up with a third group, and that third group could be part of a subcommittee that would work on citizen review.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who appoints the members of the CPAC, said it is supposed to be composed of one member per ward, “but sometimes it is difficult to find people willing to serve on the committee.”
Mr. Bobkiewicz said, “We will use the next 30 days to use these groups, have them meet and develop or devise a working group and come up with a subcommittee. We will reach out.”
Ald. Miller said he felt the community should be included. “I would encourage the public – anyone who is interested – to send an email to the mayor,” he said.
When Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, asked the members of the audience, who numbered about 100, “How many of you would be willing to come back [and help]?” about 20 people raised their hands. “You’re the most important piece of this, she said. “We can sit up here, but if you don’t have trust in the process, it’s not going to work. We’ll deal with every point that every one of you raised.”
Although the specifics of this subcommittee or working group are amorphous, it appeared that the group would have only review powers.
Aldermen appeared to be pleased with the large turnout of speakers concerned about police-community relations and with the direction in which they felt the Council and the Committee were headed.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, recounted the history of working toward a police review board. “We started in 2005 to talk about citizens’ review. … I want people to know that there have been pieces of this all along. … Whatever happens here, we all have to own it. Until we do, there is not going to be change.”
She also asked for an independent investigator to be assigned to the Human Services Committee. Mr. Bobkiewicz said that could be done within certain parameters.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said he feels changes are needed in the culture of the Police Department as much as in the procedures. Referring to the Crosby video, he said, “I would like to make it clear to the police officers that this does not reflect the entire Police Department, but, if you engage in these kinds of activities, this is not the community for you.”
Ald. Wilson said, “[Residents’] ideas are what are going to get us there. Keep talking to us.”
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said, “I appreciate everyone’s coming out to demonstrate that Evanston cares. Chief Eddington has provided an excellent response to the City Council’s concerns. Having community input is a critical piece. There’s work to be done.”
Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said she is “glad to have a framework to address those difficult issues. I look forward to the continued conversation.”
“We can talk among ourselves,” said Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey, “but what I want to know is how the police hear what is being said.”
Mr. Bobkiewicz said he and Chief Eddington had attended police roll calls throughout the past week and told the officers about the proposed changes. He said a majority of them do not live in Evanston and so the stakes are not so high for them as for those who do live here. “The feeling I got from the police officers is they are paying attention. They are concerned.” He also thinks more should be done to connect the officers to Evanston.
Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, who chairs the Human Services Committee, invited Ms. Ester and her group to be part of the conversation, which will continue at future meetings of the Human Services Committee.