At a press conference on July 9, Evanston’s top cop, Police Chief Richard Eddington, announced that he would leave office at the end of December. He is 66 years old and has served as Evanston’s Chief of Police since 2007. He said he and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had spent some months discussing the appropriate time for his resignation.
Chief Eddington thanked “11 years of City staff, multiple City Councils, the Citizens Police Advisory Committee, the Police Advisory Board, three mayors – Lorraine Morton, Elizabeth Tisdahl and Stephen Hagerty – three City Managers – Wally Bobkiewicz, Julia Carroll and Rolanda Russell – the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, my family and the members of the Police Department. Their dedication and professionalism are the foundation of the department.”
Since 2007, he said, the City of Evanston has seen a 59% reduction in Part 1 crimes – which has an impact on the quality of life in Evanston – decreasing by thousands the number of victims in Evanston. “That’s the heart of what we do – preventing crimes. This speaks to the dedication of the men and women of the Evanston Police Department.” The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting classifies as Part 1 crimes criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary (breaking and entering), larceny (except motor vehicle theft) and arson.
The Chief continued, “In this time of intense national scrutiny of police departments, it is important to make some comments regarding the Police Department’s relationship with the African American community. I want to say that crime in Evanston disproportionately affects the African American community. The African American population is 17%, but 56% of the victims of crime are African Americans. … We continue to commit to connecting with the community – coaching FAAM basketball teams, meeting with the Officer and Gentlemen Academy and other ways.”
Again thanking people “for this successful run,” he said, “The men and women of the Evanston Police Department have faithfully executed their duties.”
Taking questions from the press and the audience members, Chief Eddington acknowledged the financial squeeze the City faces in crafting the 2019 budget. “I would take this opportunity to say that to maintain this quality of services and quality of life is an expensive proposition. We have urban issues and North Shore desires for services – that’s a difficult balancing act.”
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said, “Thank you, Chief Eddington, for your excellent service. People come to Evanston for many reasons. People stay here because we’re safe.”
Mayor Stephen Hagerty said, “This is a bittersweet day. We have been led by an excellent Police Chief. … On behalf of the City Council, I thank you for your service. The new chief will have to know how important Constitutional rights, civil liberties and non-discrimination are.”
Even though the City will conduct a nationwide search for a new Police Chief, Mayor Hagerty, Mr. Bobkiewicz and Chief Eddington each encouraged qualified members of the Evanston Police Department to apply for the position. Chief Eddington said everyone who applies for the position will have the proper credentials. The main question in hiring will be how the candidate fits in with City personnel and processes – including the budget – as well as within the Police Department.
Mr. Bobkiewicz said there would be at least one public meeting for residents to help craft a profile of qualities they would like to see in the new Police Chief.
In a telephone interview on July 6, Chief Eddington told the RoundTable, “I’m proud of my officers and of the reduction in crime around the City.” During his tenure, he continued the policy started by Chief William Logan in the 1980s of trying to ensure the composition of the police force reflects the demographics of the community. The problem-solving team and those on foot patrol, he said in 2015, “work very hard at finding solutions [to problems] that will not result in arrests.”
Chief Eddington implemented several changes, many of them in response to community concerns. Last year the department offered training in de-escalation techniques and strategies, in the use of force, and in how to deal with subjects in crisis or suffering from mental health problems.
An example of procedural change is that Evanston police officers will no longer arrest a subject for refusing to give personal information for a contact card but will only note the refusal. The department also dropped a policy the Chief characterized as “If we put our hands on you, we have to arrest you.”
Chief Eddington told the RoundTable he and his wife plan to stay in Evanston for a few months, at least. “There’s no other job, and I don’t have anywhere I’m wanting to go,” he said.
The process of a national search could take some time, the Chief said. “I anticipate this is going to take until December, and my intention is to give the City Manager time to let the process work.”