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A profusely contrite Evanston Police Chief, Demitrous Cook, publicly apologized today, Feb.21, for inadvertently posting over his Snapchat account photographs of individuals taken as part of a department investigation.
The photographs, which the Chief hastily moved to remove shortly after they were posted on Feb. 17, were captured in a screenshot by a member of the public and quickly circulated, spurring disbelief from some community members.
“These photos were taken to assist me with an investigation and should never have been posted publicly,” Chief Cook said at a press conference which he called, held in a conference room just off the Evanston Police Station, at 909 Lake St.. “There is no excuse for what happened.”
Chief Cook said he took the photographs — using his Snapchat application because of its picture quality — for his own use so when he read the reports later he could put a “face to the name.”
He described the release as “a large array of photographs,” perhaps 30 or more, responding to questions at the press conference.
He also confirmed that one of the photographs included handwriting identifying the person as of HIV status.
Some upset community and family members were at the conference and joined in questioning about the release of the information.
One, Betty Ester, a resident active in community-police issues, noted that Chief Cook was reviewing snapshots of people with connections to a case, “long ago.”
“But a little due diligence should have been taken with that, as one of the young people on that snapshot, his record is sealed,” she told the Chief. “So, you unsealed it by putting his photo up there. So now he’s got to go through that process again and hope, ‘Oh, this job that I’m getting I can explain to my upcoming boss how it [the photo] got there.’”
An emotional Chief, whose career started as a popular foot patrol officer in the City’s predominantly black community nearly 40 years ago, noted that “most of the young people in those photographs I’ve known all my life. And I’ve had a good relationship with their parents, and many of the parents have called me and asked, ‘Cook, why are my kids on there?’ And I explained that I made a mistake about it.
“Most have been pretty good about it,” he said. “But there have been some, you know, all I could do is apologize because they’re really upset about it.”
At the press conference, longtime Evanston resident Joseph Henry, who said his grandson was in one of the photographs, noted the goodwill the Chief had built up in the community over the years.
“I have faith that you made a mistake,” he told the Chief. “And we, as people, we make a mistake we need to forgive them. So, I don’t see why we can’t forgive you for making a simple mistake.”