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Another major vacancy in the City of Evanston will be filled soon, as City Manager Luke Stowe announced Friday he will hire East Dundee Deputy Chief Schenita Stewart as the next permanent police chief.
The announcement comes over a year after the departure of previous chief Demitrous Cook, who retired on June 7, 2021. In that time, the city appointed two interim chiefs, held a series of public meetings to hear what residents wanted in a new chief, and hosted a live virtual forum interviewing three finalists.
Stewart, who has served as East Dundee Deputy Chief since January 2021, will start as Evanston’s chief on Monday, Oct. 10 according to the city’s announcement.
“Chief Stewart is an outstanding leader with distinguished service and a deep knowledge of the Evanston community,” Stowe said in the announcement. “She is uniquely qualified to lead our Police Department while strengthening community relationships. I look forward to working with Chief Stewart in her new role.”
Stewart grew up in Evanston and graduated from Evanston Township High School and brings 23 years of law enforcement experience to the role. She spent most of her career in nearby Lincolnwood, starting out as a patrol officer in 1999 and eventually rising to the rank of Deputy Chief in 2018. She also served on the North Regional Major Crimes Task Force from 2008 to 2018, including four years as team leader.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to serve the community that raised and supported me my entire life,” Stewart said in the announcement. “This great city of Evanston is the lighthouse community that my great grandparents fled to from Abbeville, S.C. for a better life. I think that if they were alive they would be proud.”
Stewart was first announced as a finalist on Friday, Aug. 26, alongside Chicago Deputy Chief Migdalia Bulnes and Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Investigations Bureau Chief Joshua Hunt.
A major issue awaiting Stewart is EPD’s ongoing staff shortage, which recently led to the department temporarily reassigning officers and reducing investigative services. According to Stowe, the department had 27 vacancies for sworn officers as of August 2022.
The city’s news release lists these career accomplishments for the new chief:
— She was twice honored as the Village of Lincolnwood’s “Police Officer of the Year,” earning the recognition in 2000 and 2005.
— She is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, where she serves on the Rethinking Responses to Common Calls for Service Committee. She is also a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Police Executive Research Forum and Kane County Chiefs of Police Association.
— Stewart holds a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Chicago State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Illinois State University. She is a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command and Executive Management Program.
In her free time, Stewart volunteers as a mentor in The Charmm’d Foundation’s Leadership Academy, helping others reach their full potential. Understanding the importance of strong community relationships, she also teaches community relations to police recruits at the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy.