The Evanston Police Department is seeking to reduce the amount of time officers from other jurisdictions must serve before transferring to EPD. Credit: RoundTable file photo

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With the Evanston Police Department at its lowest headcount in recent history, city officials are considering lowering the service time officers have to log with a police department from another municipality before becoming eligible to join the Evanston force.

Members of the City Council’s Administration & Public Works Committee on March 28 backed interim Police Chief Richard Eddington’s proposal, which calls for a change in the city’s Public Safety Commission rules. The plan now moves to the City Council for consideration.

EPD is facing its greatest staff drain in years, with 24 officers leaving the department to join other law enforcement jurisdictions, Eddington told members of the council’s Human Services Committee at their March 7 meeting.

As of Oct. 27, police staffing figures stood at 135 sworn officers and 43 civilian employees, for a headcount of 178. At that time, there were 19 sworn and 10 civilian vacancies, for a total of 29 open positions, officials reported.

The vacancy count is more than double the highest annual vacancy count in the past six years, officials said.

The city is making an aggressive push to fill the gap, recruiting officers from other departments who have already been through basic training and bring experience.

Evanston is in strong competition with other cities, including Chicago, that are also facing an officer drain and making strong recruiting efforts of their own.

Eddington’s proposal essentially would shorten the amount of time officers need to serve with another department before being considered for employment in Evanston.

Instead of a two-year timeframe, officials narrowed down the time to officers’ probationary period with their current employer or previous employer. That usually runs between a year and 18 months, Eddington said.

“We have found there were several Academy candidates of our current officers who are interested [in joining the department] but had less than two years of service, and we’re eager to solicit their applications,” Eddington said.

He also noted that the total number of officers that had left the force had grown since his March 7 report to the Human Services Committee, with two announcing they were leaving and another retiring this past week.

In discussion, Council member Jonathan Nieuwsma, 4th Ward, recounted a discussion he had with the Police Chief earlier that day and expressed his concern that “we’re not hiring leftovers from other municipalities,” to fill positions.

Eddington – who in 2018 retired as Police Chief after 11 years and was rehired earlier this year to serve while the city searches for a new chief – assured committee members that candidates will be fully vetted and will undergo an interview by members of EPD’s command staff. There will also be background checks that include a waiver that will allow the city to see their personnel file with their current employer. Candidates will be subject to psychological and polygraph exams and drug screening – essentially “all the things we would do for a candidate that is not in [law enforcement] service,” he said.

“The advantage to the in-service person is they have a shorter FTO [Field Training Officer] period and we don’t have to send them to basic training,” he said.

That saves the city a considerable amount of money in salaries. Also, Eddington noted, “We’re several months away from establishing a regular police test [for applicants vying to come on to the force.] And this is the only way we’re going to be able to obtain any manpower for the warmer summer months.”

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

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  1. The Evanston residents (and certain alders) have been horrible to the EPD officers. This is the biggest reason officers are leaving to go elsewhere. They took this job to help serve and protect and they’d rather do it where they feel valued. The officers with 10+ years on the job are stuck though because it’s too expensive to move pensions if you are in Tier 1.

  2. Does anyone know why so many officers have left the EPD? My understanding is that most of these officers have not retired but have gone to work for other departments. So what is going on? Are we not paying competitive salaries or are there poor working conditions here in Evanston? What are the reasons behind what is happening.