De-escalation policies and access to body camera footage were the main focus of the Citizen Police Review Commission’s recommendations to Evanston Police Department Chief of Police Schenita Stewart.
The commission’s Wednesday, Jan. 11, meeting was spent reviewing the first draft of its letter to the new police chief. The final draft will be prepared and added to the commission’s agenda in time for it next meeting Feb. 1.
Commissioners are tasked with reviewing EPD’s investigations of citizen complaints. This process includes hearing the citizen’s complaint, the results of EPD’s investigation as told by EPD Commander Ryan Glew and watching the available body camera footage.
The commissioners and EPD watch the footage while in executive session away from the public.
After, they agreed that the officers, as well as the community, could benefit from additional de-escalation training.
“I think there was a consensus that police officers and their relationship with citizens could enhance if police officers are competent and trained in de-escalation strategies,” said Commissioner Samuel Jones.
Jones wrote the draft and shared it with the other commissioners moments before the meeting, so city staff weren’t able to include a copy of the draft in the meeting’s agenda.
Jones and other commissioners agreed that EPD should add its definition of de-escalation, its policy and training efforts to the top of its webpage.
“I think that in itself is a de-escalation strategy,” Commissioner Scott Fishman said. “If we know as Evanstonians the police’s standards.”
EPD has about seven different policies that mention de-escalation, Glew said. All of the policies are within federal and state law, Glew said. He plans to share all of these policies with the commissioners so that they can review them and discuss the policies at the next meeting.
Illinois requires that officers receive de-escalation training every three years, but in addition, officers are also given the training as needed, Glew said.
The commissioner’s recommendation also plans to present the negatives and the positives of allowing officers to view their body camera footage before writing their incident statements.
As of now, EPD officers are allowed to view their body camera footage on their iPhone or tablet any time they want before the footage is deleted. The footage is deleted after 90 days if no complaints are filed.
But not all officers and supervisors seem know about this policy. When commissioners reviewed complaint #22-0, the officer involved in the complaint stated that they hadn’t seen the footage because a supervisor told them not to watch the footage. So many of the officer’s responses to questions during the EPD’s investigation were “I don’t recall,” Jones explained.
Jones said he can see the benefit of allowing officers to see the body camera footage because then the officers will be able to answer questions about the incident. But some research shows that officers can use the footage as evidence to support a fabricated version of the story, Jones said.
“To be clear, I don’t think we should take a position as a commission on that point,” Jones said. “I simply want to convey that information from the survey to the chief.”
The Citizen Police Review Commission closed the meeting with discussion of future training for the commissioners.
Since there are some new members of the commission, Glew recommends that the commission receive training on:
- Body Worn Camera (BWC) Act and Policy
- Benefits of BWCs and their limitations
- Officer Bill of Rights
- Due Process
- Miranda and Garrity rights
- Review and familiarization with Evanston Police Lexipol Polcy and policy management.
- Implicit bias training
The commission also recommended they receive training on de-escalation as well. No dates have been scheduled for training yet.