Evanston police have seen a drain in manpower in recent years with the department down by more than 30 officers at one point, including a number exiting for better paying jobs in neighboring suburbs.

Evanston City Council members took a major step to address that problem at their meeting Monday, Jan. 23, voting unanimously to approve new pay packages and longevity bonuses for the department’s sergeants and patrol officers.

EPD Officer Otha Brooks is one of the community policing officers assigned to the second, eighth and ninth wards. Credit: Richard Cahan

Eighth Ward City Council Member Devon Reid, the only council member to address the new contracts, said it was “an easy choice for the entire council to move forward with pay raises, particularly understanding that we are not in alignment with some of our neighbors, and our neighbors do not have the same complications that we do here.”

Officers have had to respond to some difficult situations, he said, “and while no amount of pay can compensate for that … what I think we can do here is show we value this department by increasing salaries.’’ He said officers probably deserve more, but “this is a good first step.”

Terms and conditions

Under the new collective bargaining agreement the city reached with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, the sergeants represented by that group will receive a gross wage increase totaling 30% over four years.

The agreement also calls for an additional 6.5% added to the salary of members who complete 25 years of service, said Nicholas Cummings, the city’s Corporation Counsel, in a memo.

Similarly, the new agreement provides a gross wage increase for patrol officers of 23% over the four years. Further, those officers will receive longevity pay of 4.5% of their salary for members who complete 15 years of service.

The agreement also includes the city’s recognition of Juneteenth as a holiday, Cummings noted.

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

In an interview last August, outgoing Interim Police Chief Richard Eddington noted that while staffing is a nationwide issue for law enforcement, Evanston is particularly affected.

“Unfortunately in the Evanston area, we’re in a very competitive environment for police services, and there are a substantial number of suburbs that are willing to pay substantial dollars to pirate our trained personnel.”

New Evanston Police Chief Schenita Stewart was among the officers in the council chambers who rose from their seats and applauded the action.

“I think we just caught up to what these officers have been doing, and to be quite honest, they could probably pay them more,” she said.

The officers “had a really good negotiating team. I’m proud to work with the fine men and women of the Evanston Police Department every day,” she said.

As far as the exodus of officers from the department, Stewart added, “I hope it stops the bleeding a little bit. But like I said, we have some good people that work here, have been working here and I’m happy with the contract.”

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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