Evanston residents land in jail — but just visiting

Scott Gordon

Evanston residents land in jail — but just visiting

EPD open house shows process followed by police after arrests

By Scott Gordon

The Daily Northwestern

Thirty presumably innocent Evanston residents were led Saturday into the plastic backseats of police cars, through the station’s booking room and into cell blocks.

The residents took a tour of the Evanston Police Department station during Saturday’s EPD open house, seeing sights that otherwise only would come with a formal booking and a pending court date.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Crime Analyst Michael Perlman and three graduates of EPD’s Citizen Police Academy ran tours of EPD’s main station, 1454 Elmwood Ave., and explained all the details about what happens after you get arrested in within the Evanston city limits.

“We think it’s a good opportunity for the citizens to see what the police department is all about,” Perlman said. “When I was a volunteer, I thought it was very interesting to learn about the department.”

Perlman and volunteer Katie Cawley led one tour group down one of the station’s curving hallways into the squad room, where officers are briefed and assigned to their beats before heading out on a patrol shift.

The tour group then saw — in reverse — the basic process that individuals suspected in a crime undergo.

Leaders then took the group through a heavy metal door to see a block of four cells where the department houses its female prisoners. Each cell had a low-sitting steel toilet and a cot with a thin green plastic mattress and a coarse grey blanket. In addition to this area, there are 15 other cells in the station.

Prisoners who have been charged with crimes can end up staying in the cells overnight, or for two nights if they are arrested on a Saturday. Police also legally are allowed to hold a prisoner without filing charges for up to 72 hours if the prisoner has been arrested in the course of an ongoing investigation.

University Police prisoners sometimes are housed in the EPD cells, depending on the severity of their crimes. UP’s Evanston Campus station, 1819 Hinman Ave., has no holding cells — just a room where suspects are handcuffed temporarily to a pipe running the length of the wall.

As visitors left the cellblock Saturday, one woman asked Perlman with genuine concern, “You never abuse prisoners here, right?”

Perlman assured her that EPD gives its detainees the “finest care in the land.”

Volunteers at the station Saturday handed out information on senior crime prevention and the Citizen Police Academy. Perlman also told visitors about the rigorous training and testing EPD officers are required to undergo, and how the department tries to make itself more effective in policing Evanston’s different neighborhoods.

“We try to be a little more selective up front so we have less problems down the line,” Perlman said.

The department tries to keep officers committed on certain beats, so that officers will be able to work more effectively in specific areas.

Cawley said programs like the annual open house demonstrate the communication and cooperation that EPD shares with city residents.

“The (Evanston) police aren’t just looking for people to write tickets to,” she said.