Nyika Strickland, chair of the Citizen Police Review Commission and a partner with Kirkland & Ellis, who specializes in intellectual property law.
Nyika Strickland, chair of the Citizen Police Review Commission and a partner with Kirkland & Ellis, who specializes in intellectual property law. Credit: Kirkland & Ellis

In March, the Citizen Police Review Commission will select its new chair. Nyika Strickland, the current chair, has been a part of the commission since its inception in 2020.

Strickland is a partner with Kirkland & Ellis, which specializes in intellectual property law. Chairs serve one-year terms and can be re-elected.

During the Feb. 1 meeting, the commission finalized a letter of recommendations to the Evanston Police Department Chief of Police Schenita Stewart.

De-escalation policy push

The recommendations are focused on the department’s de-escalation policy and training. The commission also makes a recommendation on officer’s access to body camera footage.

“The CPRC believes that these recommendations will increase police officer and citizen
safety and promote trust and confidence in the EPD,” the commission wrote in its letter to Stewart.

EPD currently has eight different policies addressing de-escalation. The commission proposes the chief establish a “standalone de-escalation policy” and requests that EPD publish this policy “conspicuously on the EPD’s website so that citizens and other interested parties may review it.”

Otherwise, the commission is concerned that de-escalation won’t be applied similarly from situation to situation.

“There is no question that integration of de-escalation principles across multiple policies can be beneficial,” the commission wrote.

“Indeed, doing so presents opportunities to reinforce the importance of deescalation across multiple situations. The absence of a comprehensive, detailed standalone de-escalation policy, however, can facilitate unintended and costly consequences and deny the EPD and citizens the wide benefits of sound De-escalation training and policy.”

As for training, the commission recommends that EPD require all officers to complete annual comprehensive de-escalation training for a minimum of 10 hours.

The commission made several recommendations regarding body camera footage. For one, it requested that EPD’s body camera policy make it incredibly clear to residents that officers can review their own body camera footage even before issuing a statement in response to a citizen complaint.

In the letter, the commission acknowledges the benefits of officers wearing body camera footage. But it has concerns with officers reviewing the footage to craft a story to counter a citizen’s complaint.

“Simply put, some contend that an officer’s firsthand, purest recollection of the
incident is likely to lead to a closer interrogation of the footage and reveal ways body camera footage may be misleading,” the commission wrote.

The ending of the letter requests a response from the chief.

During the commission’s Feb. 1 meeting, it voted to move complaint #22-01 to be reviewed by the police chief.

The commission initially reviewed this complaint on Dec. 7. The complainant alleges that the accused officer was disrespectful and didn’t investigate his claims of harassment by CTA.

The incident occurred last March 24. The complainant, who is a registered sex offender, said a CTA employee was harassing him by posting flyers of his sex offender status around the Davis Street train stop. The employee eventually took the flyers down.

The accused officer sided with the CTA employee, according to the complainant, and didn’t investigate the issue.

There isn’t a date set yet for when the chief will complete her review.

The commission voted to send complaint #22-03 to the Human Services Committee. Feb. 1 marks the first time the commission reviewed the complaint documents and the accused officer’s body camera footage.

The incident took place at Howard Street on Dec. 12, 2022. The complainant alleges that he was unlawfully stopped by the accused officer. The officer issued the complainant two traffic citations, one for not wearing a seatbelt and the other for using a handheld device while driving.

The complainant denies using a handheld device while driving, but he says he doesn’t wear a seatbelt for health reasons.

The officer was on a special detail to identify distracted drivers and those without a seatbelt.

Although the commission agreed that the complainant wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, Commissioner Samuel Jones said the accused officer could have given the complainant a warning rather than a ticket. He also had concerns with the accused officer searching for violators in a predominantly Black and Latino area.

“Oftentimes neighborhoods in major cities that are heavily populated by African Americans and Hispanics tend to be patrolled more heavily than other parts of major cities, and then African Americans and people driving in those spaces tend to be stopped more,” Jones said.

“Now, I don’t mean to say that this is what motivated this particular officer. But I do want to say that it is my hope that if officers are patrolling the city of Evanston handing out tickets for things like seatbelt and carrying what they deem to be cell phones, that they are controlling all areas and not areas that are populated by African Americans and Hispanics, which seems to be a problem with law enforcement nationally.”

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Gina Castro

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

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