Evanston Chief of Police Richard Eddington told City Council that the fact more victims of crime are Black, and more criminal suspects are Black, leads to a policy resulting in more Blacks than Whites being stopped and at times frisked. Stops are not random, but based upon actionable intelligence, he said during a presentation to City Council on March 19.
In 2017, according to a packet of information for the March 19 meeting on the City of Evanston website, cityofevanston.org: 58.58% of arrests were Black, 24.27% White, 11.99% Hispanic; 65.76% of Contact Cards (required by Illinois law for all stops, no matter the outcome) were Black, 22.24% White, and 8.63% Hispanic. According to the same numbers, 49.70% of victims of crime were Black, 35.24% White, and 5.84% Hispanic.
There have been no citizen complaints about stop and frisk in 2017, said Chief Eddington.
“One of my primary functions this evening is to add context to how we do stop-and-frisk in the City of Evanston,” said the Chief. “A significant difference in the Evanston Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk [compared to New York and other jurisdictions] is that the Evanston Police Department… ascribes to an ‘intelligence based’ policing. Evanston police officers rely on intelligence gained from a variety of sources to better perform their job.”
Since 2013, the Chief said, the Department has employed an “intelligence unit of data analysts and intelligence officers who gather, collate and disseminate” information to officers on the street. The unit gathers data from “incident reports, interviews with victims and suspects, community members, social media, text-a-tip, and information shared by outside law enforcement agencies” to prepare intelligence reports. Data is “verified by independent sources” and then passed on to officers at weekly deployment meetings.
“Equipped with this information, the Evanston Police Department is able to devote resources to specific public safety concerns,” Chief Eddington told Council members. Information is vetted to “maintain the integrity of the system,” he said.
“There is a significant difference” in officers being told to “go out and look for these individuals who have handguns versus go out and look for some guns,” said the Chief. It is a “totally different concept of who we’re focused on and why we’re focusing on them.”
Chief Eddington said the Department realized the importance of comparing the data collected to the “demographics of the community.” He said he based his analysis on Evanston’s being about 18% Black. The demographics of the victims is also important, he said, as well as that of verified suspects.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, who asked for the report, said, “The main reason I wanted to have this on the agenda is I think how we are policing the community should be on our minds. I don’t think we want to be reactive. I think we want to be proactive to the extent possible.” He said previous proposals coming before City Council have been rejected, citing the effort to create a “safe zone” around Evanston Township High School several years ago and other initiatives that would have permitted EPD “to forego normal processes and procedures.” There is no reason to reconsider those decisions, he added, calling it “important to preserve individual and civil rights.”
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said complaints about police activity were down in 2017 “despite a national conversation” and a general feeling that “Blacks are over-policed.” He asked for clarification of the definition of “victim” in the Chief’s presentation, and Chief Eddington said he would define the term further in the future.
Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said that while official complaints may have diminished, she still heard complaints from the community at times. She asked for ways to reduce what she called a tension between the EPD and the community over stops.
Chief Eddington said the department is always working on de-escalation training. The Department seeks improvement on “how you explain to an individual, ‘This is what I did, and this is why I did it,’” to residents after stops. Through training, he said, the Department seeks to get “more adept as time goes by.