Though occasionally a post will alert police officers here to criminal activity, social media have limited uses for most members of the Evanston Police Department. “We use Facebook and Twitter as a way to interact with the public – to give information about traffic and community events and programs and to communicate public safety concerns – and promote positive interactions,” said Officer Enjoli Daley of the Department’s Community Strategies Division.
Officer Daley was one of six panelists at the police town hall meeting, held on April 26 at the Civic Center. Commander Joe Dugan, Investigations; Sergeant Michael Endre, Patrol; Detective Tom Giese, Investigations; Detective Steve Klopack, Neighborhood Enforcement Team; Detective Chris Tortorello, Intelligence Unit were the others on the panel to discuss social media, community policing and crime prevention.
Diversity Consultant Gilo Kwesi Logan, who facilitates the police town hall meetings, read questions from the audience, which included those present at the Civic Center and those watching the stream on Facebook.
“Social media are used to commit crimes, flaunt crimes, stop crimes, report crimes and catch criminals,” said Det. Tortorello. “We try to stay on top of current trends. …It’s important to know what’s out there.”
Social media are evolving, as are the criminals who use them. “There are emerging groups, emerging conflicts – young kids, take on new names, new terminology. A lot of ‘showing’ will go on social media,” said Sgt. Endre.
Tips to the department alert officers to check out videos posted on social media sites.
“They post pictures of themselves with guns or doing drugs– even though they know we are on social media,” said Det. Tortorello. “You can put out there: ‘This is who we are. We don’t like them. We’re not afraid of them.’”
“It’s amazing the way they taunt each other on social media,” said Cmdr. Dugan. “It sparks a lot of fighting and a lot of violence.”
The police do not monitor social media sites continually, so concerned residents call 911 to report an immediate or emergent situation, the officers said. A second number is the non-emergency police number, 847-866-5000. Text-a-tip cell phone reporting is valuable but not immediate, as the processing causes some delay.
But Evanston Police do not rely wholly on social media, said Sgt. Endre. “We are data-driven, narrative-driven. We prefer information direct from the community.”
Det. Geise said, “Social media is a tool. A lot of action is intelligence-based. … Social media can’t be the be-all and end-all. We get good information from the community.
Sgt. Endre added, “Our deployment is based on local information,” said
Det. Klopak said, “When we’re patrolling an area that has been a problem or is a problem, people will tell us … Stop us if you see something. He added, “With gangs and narcotics, we don’t want to divulge too much.”
The Police Department uses social media for information about its activities. Immediate information, such as traffic snarls or special ops, will be posted on Twitter, while community events like Coffee with a Cop, can be found on the Department’s Facebook page.
Those who do not use social media but still wish to be informed about police matters can sign up for alerts on the police department’s web page at cityofevanton.org/police, said Cmdr. Dugan. Facebook and Twitter can be accessed even by those who are not members, said Det. Tortorello.
“Community engagement is the cornerstone of police work,” said Det. Tortorello
The 11 members of the Evanston Police Department’s Community Policing unit attend ward meetings, visit community centers, participate department outreach efforts such as the Citizens Police Academy (for adults to learn about the Police Department), the Officer and Gentlemen Academy and Police Explorers (for high school students to learn about a career in law enforcement).
“Anyone in the [Community Policing] unit is expected to be out in the community,” Officer Daley said.
The Police Department offers tours and ride-alongs, and Community Policing officers participate in Evanston Township High School’s annual Black Student summits.
A police car is no longer the sole method of transportation, as police try to get closer to the community. “We use bikes, ATVs and T3s [similar to a Segway], said Det. Tortorello.
Information from the community is valuable, the officers said.
“When we’re patrolling an area that has been a problem or is a problem, people will tell us,” said Det. Klopak.
To the question “Do you think crimes are prevented if police are near – on a bike or on foot rather than a car?” Detective Tortorello said, “It’s case-by-case.”
“This is a topic debated on academic levels. We like the community interaction,” said Sgt. Endre.
Det. Klopak said, “The call determines what mode [of transportation] to use – car, bike, etc.”
“Do laws ever prevent crime?” Dr. Logan read.
“Nothing written on paper is going to stop crime,” said Det. Klopak. “If there was a legislature that could stop crime completely, I’d be out of a job, but it would be a great thing.”
Sgt. Endre said, “Laws put people on notice. You may not agree with the law, but some people will follow it.” .
“The way we do crime prevention is to say, “Lock your house; lock up your stuff,” said Officer Daley. “The people are going to take your stuff if you don’t lock it. People are going to break into your house if you don’t lock it.”
Another question dealt with calling 911 vs. 311
Det. Geise said, “Call 911 for all emergencies and serious crimes in progress. If you see a situation that, if you were in it, you’d want the police there, call 911. Call 311 for loose dogs, graffiti, etc. Or call the non-emergency police number, 847-866-5000.”
This was the third and final police town hall meeting. “We have to keep partnerships strong and remember we’re all in this together,” Dr. Logan said. “It’s a partnership with the police and the community. They have the same goal: to live in a safe community, to create a safe community and to make a better community for all.”
Det. Geise said, “We thrive on community energy to make Evanston safe.”
Dr. Logan posed two questions from the audience that were not related to the topics of the evening: “What should I do when stopped by the police?” and “What should I do when witnessing a citizen-police interaction?” The questions received basically the same response: “Do what the officer says; keep in mind that you do not know the circumstances around your or someone’s being pulled over or stopped; and the camera is recording everything.”
“Acknowledge to the officer that you know you’re being pulled over – flash your lights, pull over out of traffic and try to minimize traffic disruption,” said Det. Tortorello.
“Follow directions,” said Sgt. Endre. “You have very little information on why you’re being stopped. Listen to his/her explanation. Remember they are wearing cameras. If you are uncertain or uncomfortable, ask that the officer call a supervisor.”
A person who observes citizen-police interaction and wants to get involved should understand, “we need some space to do our work,” said Sgt. Endre. “There are privacy concerns. During a stop is not the time to intervene. You could be putting yourself in jeopardy. You may not know the entire circumstance. … My advice would be ‘keep a good safe distance – 20-30 feet away.”
Det. Klopak added, “Know that you don’t know why the person was stopped. We’re recording the stop, the conversation that we’re having. … We might be trying to diffuse a situation and make it calmer.”
Det. Geise said, “I often get ‘I’m concerned; is it safe?’ Know that if we thought it was not safe, we would have evacuated the area if you were in danger you would not be around. … Know that the ultimate goal is to address the situation that needs to be addressed and go our separate ways. Let the police do their thing. Everything is being recorded.”
Sgt. Endre added, “Timing is everything, and this time is not during the interaction. When the interaction is clearly over, people go in opposite directions. The best way, best time is afterward, at the station.”
“At what point are the cameras on?” asked Dr. Logan. “What happens to what is recorded?
Cmdr. Dugan said, “Any time there is a call the cameras are on. The only time/exception is when we are helping the community … If you’re a victim or a witness you can decline – if officers believe you. If there is an arrest or a use of force, this is a flagged event; the record is kept for two years then deleted. Otherwise, records are deleted after 60 days. This is governed by state laws.
“We turn off the camera at the end of the encounter. The cameras are then able to capture the police-citizen encounter. They can shut it down if talking to a supervisor.”