Human Services talks cats, cops

Adam Sege

Accusations of police misconduct and debate over pet care and “green” construction highlighted Tuesday’s wide-ranging meeting of the Evanston Human Services Committee.

At the beginning of the meeting, held at the Evanston Civic Center, Chief Richard Eddington of the Evanston Police Department presented his report responding to citizen complaints against the police. Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) brought up one case in which an officer broke a suspect’s nose during an altercation.

The incident occurred after a policeman followed a fleeing man who turned a corner and crouched down, waiting for the pursuing officer, Eddington said. A brief altercation followed that ended with the suspect’s broken nose.

Eddington acknowledged that the officer had broken the suspect’s nose, but he rejected the complainant’s story that he was hit multiple other times by the officer. The police chief said it was more likely the complainant had been hit in an earlier incident.

Jean-Baptiste disagreed.

“I support the conclusions in the other reports,” the alderman said. “But I disagree with the conclusion of this one.”

Eddington said the police department has recently increased self-defense training for its officers.

“We have emphasized over the course of the last year more open-hand strikes,” he said, adding that such strikes inflict less injury on both the officer and the subject.

With the exception of Jean-Baptiste’s rejection of the specific incident report, the committee approved Eddington’s report unanimously.

Soon after, the committee began the discussion of an ordinance limiting the number of cats in a residence to four. The committee was dubious, at least initially.

“Can someone tell me what problem this is solving?” asked Mayor-elect Elizabeth Tisdahl, who is currently alderman of the 7th Ward.

Shannon Lathrop, 35, told the committee about a neighbor who owned more than a dozen cats. Lathrop started complaining to animal control in the summer of 2007, but because the neighbor was not violating a city ordinance, there was nothing that animal control could do.

“I would not want to open the window to my residence because I was smelling cat urine,” Lathrop said. “The odor – I can’t even tell you,” she said.

“We can imagine,” Jean-Baptiste said.

After years of complaints and countless phone calls to the city, animal control removed 90 cats from two Evanston residences last week. And, after hearing Lathrop’s story, the committee voted to approve the ordinance.

“You have answered my question,” Tisdahl said.

The committee also discussed moving forward with a plan to encourage more environmentally-friendly building in the city.

The plan would require builders to make a deposit to the city before beginning a construction project. If the builder achieves Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification – an accreditation certifying that a building meets certain environmental benchmarks – the builder will get the deposit back.

While supporting the plan in principle, several committee members expressed concern over the amount of the deposit, proposed as 5 percent.

“I want to encourage green building, not send people out of Evanston to build,” Tisdahl said.

The committee voted to approve the plan, but asked the subcommittee to create a sliding scale system, with lower deposit levels for higher-cost projects, before the City Council considers the ordinance.

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