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Evanston residents met with City officials Sept. 5 to discuss potential hiring criteria for a new police chief, given the forthcoming retirement of Chief Richard Eddington, who will be stepping down at the end of the year.
“We’ve been through some challenging times, but we had the support of the community throughout, for which we’re very grateful,” said Chief Eddington in brief remarks early in the session. He noted that the Police Department was committed to a “smooth transition” and added that, “We have delayed many things until this meeting.”
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz is by City statute responsible for the hire; Northbrook-based recruitment firm GovHR will manage the process on behalf of the City.
About 100 or more candidates are expected to apply for the job; about 15 of those candidates will be brought in for interviews before several panels composed of City department heads, police chiefs from other cities and other stakeholders. Those panelists will eventually rank the candidates until the pool is down to two or three persons. Mr. Bobkiewicz will then interview the finalists individually.
A preliminary draft of the proposed job listing was circulated to audience members Sept. 5. The meeting was intended to integrate potential residential concerns before that listing was finalized.
Mr. Bobkiewicz was asked whether officers already within EPD would be considered for the post; he answered that he hoped they would indeed apply but that he felt the search should be wide in scope.
“I feel I owe residents of Evanston the very best police chief in the country,” he said.
Many residents were concerned about potential candidates’ commitment to racial equity and equality, and sought reassurances that any incoming candidates would not have past associations with incidents of race-based violence or police brutality, for example. Mr. Bobkiewicz said that most successful candidates would likely already be chiefs or in otherwise high-profile police positions, and their records would likely be transparent. GovHR, he added, would be carrying out an extensive background check.
Another audience member said that current Human Resources best practices frequently dictate gender- and race-blind hiring procedures, wherein application materials are stripped of markers that might trigger discriminatory hiring practices. Mr. Bobkiewicz said that would not be the case with the EPD search, and added that he was confident that the process would be undertaken fairly.
Joseph De Lopez of GovHR said that his firm would reach out to minority police officer associations, among numerous other realms, to ensure a diverse candidate pool.
Audience members broke into several groups, discussing their expectations about professional and personal experience; prior training and credentials; leadership and managerial style; policing philosophy; and the top three to five priorities once the candidate starts their job.
In remarks after the work sessions, participants reiterated the need for a chief committed to policies and strategies for racial equality and equity. Several persons also noted that the chief should be knowledgeable about relatively new policing and rehabilitation strategies such as restorative justice and crisis de-escalation. A number of persons also stated a preference for a chief promoted from within the ranks of EPD, while others said that City youth should somehow be better integrated into the search process.
Audience members expressed some frustration that only one community outreach meeting was scheduled about the job listing. Mr. Bobkiewicz answered that he thought only one meeting would be necessary. Late in the session, a participant asked whether a similar meeting could be called when the search was down to its finalists, so community members could meet the finalists. Mr. Bobkiewicz said he would consider the idea.
Diversity consultant Gilo Logan facilitated the meeting.
A webpage dedicated to the candidate search will be set up on the City’s website, Mr. Bobkiewicz said. The page will include the detailed recommendations from the Sept. 5 meeting and will be updated as the search progresses. The website will be at cityofevanston.org/policechief.