The city’s new Police Chief Schenita Stewart wrapped up her Coffee with the Chief meetings in the Fifth Ward on Wednesday morning. A handful of Evanston Police Department officers and residents mingled over cups of joe at Double Clutch Brewery. Residents buzzed about how long they’ve known Stewart.

Janet Alexander Davis recalled seeing Stewart and her twin sister, Schonella Stewart, playing on Leland Avenue while they were growing up in Evanston. Davis lives on Leland in the Fifth Ward and so did the Stewarts’ grandparents and great-grandparents when the Stewart girls were growing up.

EPD Officer Mike Jones, from left, City Manager Luke Stowe, Chief of Police Schenita Stewart and Officer Cesar Galindo met with Fifth Ward residents on Nov. 30. Credit: Gina Castro

“It’s great having a chief who’s from here,” Davis said. She added that she wished more officers lived in the community. “I don’t like that some of the cops don’t live here, but I get that they have their reasons.”

Only 9% of EPD officers live in Evanston, according to the department’s Transparency Hub.

Stewart’s Coffee with the Chief events kicked off Nov. 2. She made her way to each ward, with a joint event for the Eighth and Ninth wards, to encourage residents to discuss their concerns and get to know her. City Manager Luke Stowe helped coordinate the events.

“I don’t run away from tough conversations,” Stewart said. “To be the face of an organization is to be accessible to the community.”

Stewart, Evanston’s first female non-interim police chief, said this final coffee doesn’t mark the end of her community engagement. The chief intends to sit down with EPD Administrative Coordinator Janella Hardin to discuss new ways to foster discussions with the community.

Council Member Bobby Burns of the Fifth Ward showed a new Fifth Ward resident how to sign up for the ward newsletter. Credit: Gina Castro

All of the Coffee with the Chief gatherings were at 9 a.m. on weekdays. Stewart said she intends to find ways to reach residents who were unable to attend because of obligations such as work or child care. Another round of events will kick off in the new year.

Council Member Bobby Burns, 5th Ward, attended the event too. He spoke with residents and referred to Stewart as a “hometown hero.”

“This turned out to be an avenue for hearing general concerns from Fifth Ward residents for me too,” he said.

Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the Evanston RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative...

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