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The Evanston Police Department’s annual report can prove an interesting read with its compendium of crime statistics and summary of the department’s activities.
But the document is receiving especially close reading this year, with the department and defunding at the center of the City’s budget debate.
At the July 27 City Council meeting, several aldermen pressed police officials to provide more details, citing issues brought into focus as part of the defunding movement.
In discussion, Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, acknowledged that the report, which can be found in full on the City’s web site, cityofevanston.org/home/showdocument?id=58857, contains a lot of information.
But she expressed disappointment that the report did not include more information about the people with whom police are actually engaging.
“We know the national conversation and even the local conversation is around policing and how you might receive policing based in your race or gender,” she told police officials. “So to not have that information in this annual report I think was a huge miss.”
Ald. Fleming’s comments came after a presentation of the report by Deputy Chief Milissa Sacluti, highlighting some of its findings.
She reported that Evanston stands “at the very top” on calls for service compared to what departments receive in a number of similar-sized communities.
Evanston (population 74,10) received 84,843 calls for service or 1.145 call per resident in 2019, she said. Significantly lower, she said were Arlington Heights (0.289); Aurora (0.749); Elgin (0.753); Naperville (0.878) and Skokie (0.945).
Arlington Heights, for instance, almost identical in population, had 21,823 calls for service compared to Evanston’s 84,843.
Evanston falls in the middle of officers per capita compared to other similar departments, according to figures the Deputy Chief Sacluti presented.
The department currently has 150 sworn police, equating to 2.01 officers per 1,000 residents, she said, reading from the report.
Madison, Wis., (population 259,680) also a city with a large university, has 479 officers or 1.9 percent, she said.
Oak Park (pop. 52,381) which, like Evanston, borders Chicago, has 121 officers, or 2.31 per resident, she noted.
Officers spend their greatest time in direct area patrol (45%), with traffic stops (22%), follow ups (7%), premise checks (6%) and parking complaints (4%) occupying their next greatest amount of time.
“What this means is that 45% of the officer’s daily activity is spent in direct area patrol, which means patrolling a specific area, a specific hot spot that we focus on depending on crime trends, such as areas that have potential gang violence,” said Deputy Chief Sacluti.
The Evanston Police Department is also “representative of the community we serve,” she said in her report.
The department’s makeup of 57.7% Caucasian falls just below the 59% of white residents in the City. African Americans make up 24.2% of the department’s officers, while the population here is 17% Black.
The department’s percentage of Latinx officers, 9.4%, falls below the Latinx percentage, 12%, of the City’s total.
The report also included crime trends, the types of calls police respond to, the activities that occupy the department the most.
Ald. Fleming also asked for greater detail of the time officers spend in the City’s individual wards.
“And I bring this up to say many are watching police [and] are paying attention to a lot of policing matters. For me, at least, [the report] lacks a little context.”
Other aldermen, too, indicated they would like more information.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, noted that he plans to give an update on the defunding issue at an upcoming ward meeting, noting the efforts of the mostly young activists who have gotten behind the issue.
He said the current report contains “a lot updated that I’m sure people will find very interesting,” and called it “a good starting point for discussion.”
Police Chief Demitrous Cook told Council members that the report has been in the works since January before defunding and the murder of George Floyd became a center of discussion.
“And we had a reduction in staff so that put a lot of things on hold,” he said.
The report, he said, “is a good qualitative analysis of what we do in terms of activity,” adding, though “perhaps not necessarily with respect to where we are today and what people expect to hear from the police department.”
To the Chief, Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said she appreciated the background about the report starting in January and suggested “maybe the conversation expanding, since then there’s room for some more data.”
She included information on the City’s recidivism rate and asked, “What programs do we have in place that monitors those that are returning home?” noting statistics show a high rate of recidivism.