Evanston Police officer accused of racial profiling has clean, commended history, records show
December 5, 2012
The Evanston cop accused of racially profiling an Evanston teen during a burglary investigation has racked up more compliments than complaints in recent years, according to documents obtained by The Daily.
Officer Mark Buell handcuffed 13-year-old Diwani Greenwell in August because the teen seemed to match the description of a burglary suspect in the area. Police quickly determined the teen was not the burglar and released him, and Buell apologized.
Medill Prof. Ava Greenwell witnessed the incident as it unraveled on her front lawn and insists her son’s detention was racially motivated.
She filed a lawsuit in federal court against Buell and pushed EPD to conduct an internal investigation into the matter. That probe cleared Buell of wrongdoing and found that he followed procedures when handcuffing the teen. Greenwell’s attorney said the investigation was a “cover-up.”
A review of Buell’s EPD personnel file from the past five years reveals a veteran officer who has been noted more for exemplary work than alleged misconduct. The Daily obtained dozens of documents about Buell through a Freedom of Information Act request.
There are almost twice as many letters of appreciation than complaints in Buell’s file since 2007 — a rarity for police officers, said EPD spokesman Perry Polinski.
“It has been my observation that the majority of the time people are quicker to, and more interested in, formally complaining about an employee than they are in acknowledging a job well done,” Polinski said.
Residents will usually send letters praising individual officers directly to Police Chief Richard Eddington.
A south Evanston woman said Buell and other officers were “thorough, genuinely concerned and unbelievably nice” while performing a wellness check in April.
In July 2011, Buell was the first to arrive on the scene of a home invasion and helped retrieve a woman and her daughters from their Ridge Avenue home. The woman said Buell performed above and beyond his duties with “bravery and valor.”
A victim of repeated harassment praised Buell for his commitment to her case in 2008.
“Detective Buell took the situation seriously and managed it in an exemplary manner to ensure my safety,” she said. “He has been responsive and made extra efforts to deal with the harasser.”
Buell was also acclaimed for his involvement in two separate bank robbery investigations in 2011 and 2008. A senior security official at Bank of America said Buell and the other officers “worked well together” and successfully took two career criminals off the streets.
Compliments aside, Buell’s conduct has been reviewed four times since 2007. However, none of the internal probes concluded the veteran officer of 20 years was guilty of wrongdoing.
In 2010, Buell was accused of ignoring the owner of a vehicle he was inspecting and of treating her differently because she was a black woman. The car owner claimed the incident was race-related because she overheard an employee at EPD headquarters tell Buell that there was “an African American woman in the lobby” asking to speak with him. An investigation concluded that the claims were unfounded.
Last year, Buell was accused of cursing at a homeless man and making an obscene gesture with his middle finger at McDonald’s, 1117 Howard St. The complaint was not sustained by the evidence, which included witness interviews and surveillance tape.
Buell was only reprimanded once in the past five years, according to the documents.
In October 2010, Buell responded to a disturbance at a nail salon and a complaint was filed that claimed he didn’t stay long enough to resolve the dispute. Buell was exonerated on that charge but he was reprimanded for failing to get the names of the customers at the salon, who destroyed some merchandise after he left.
EPD Cmdr. Jay Parrott said officers who aggressively pursue crime are more likely to receive complaints because they often interact with people in volatile situations. He described Buell as an “excellent street officer” with a knack for locating criminals.