Evanston’s new police chief must understand the city’s multicultural needs, treat all residents equally and with respect, and be focused on lowering crime in the community.
Those were the main themes expressed by a dozen residents who attended a Spanish-language town hall meeting Tuesday night designed to elicit the Latino community’s feedback about the qualities the city’s next police chief should have.
Evanston hasn’t had a permanent police chief since Demitrous Cook retired in June 2021. The position is currently held on an interim basis by Richard Eddington, who served as chief from 2007 to 2018.
The city held two town hall meetings Tuesday night: one for the Latino community at St. Nicholas Catholic Church and one for the Black community at First Church of God. A town hall meeting open to the entire community took place last week. The events were moderated by members of the firm Envisioning Equity.
At the session, resident Maria Rosario Mendoza said she wants the new chief to directly engage with residents. “I would like to know that from the beginning, my police chief is having more communication with people.”
The biggest challenge, she said, will be to fight the presence of drugs in the community, which particularly affects younger people.
Resident Rocio Mancera said she wants the new chief to assign more resources to areas with the highest crime rates. It’s also important to ensure that the police department is adequately funded, she said.
“If the city doesn’t give tools to the police, they are not going to be able to fight the violence,” she said.
It’s imperative that the new chief treat everyone with equity, setting an example for the entire police department, resident Ana Copado said. “(The new chief) has to have the same respect for people of different races and traditions, without favoritism.”
Arisbeth Martinez agreed: “It doesn’t matter if (the new chief) is Black, white or Latino — we just want someone who can communicate with us.”
Other suggestions from residents included: having a police chief who is bilingual, enthusiastic about the job and has children, the latter to better understand the needs of Evanston’s parents and youngest residents, they said.
Residents also said they’d like the new police chief to live in town. Evanston doesn’t have a residency requirement, but traditionally police chiefs have lived there, said Alison Leipsiger, policy coordinator for the city.
The Spanish-language town hall meeting attracted more resident participation than the other two events, largely thanks to the outreach conducted by City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza, Leipsiger said.
Fortino Leon said he appreciates the city’s efforts to elicit feedback about the search for a new chief. “It’s important that people know they have a voice, and it’s important for people to participate in their communities and stay informed,” he said.
As for why there weren’t more people in attendance, Fortino attributed that to a generalized sense of apathy and complacency, but also to the fact that many within the Latino community work late into the evening.
Getting feedback from residents is crucial to find the right person for the police chief’s job, Mayor Daniel Biss said.
“We cannot get it right, we cannot do it properly, without real input from across the community,” he said. “We are trying to build a profile of what the community really wants, and we will use this information to find a person who will fit the community’s needs.” Residents can also express their opinion about the qualities they desire in a new chief via an online survey.