Evanston Police present racial profiling report, aldermen call for more discussion

Medill Prof. Ava Greenwell and her husband Dale respond to the Evanston Police presentation regarding their son Diwani’s handcuffing in August. The journalism professor commented on the lasting impression of racial profiling on youth like her son.

Rachel Janik, Reporter

Representatives of the Evanston Police Department presented to the city’s Human Services Committee on Monday the results of an internal investigation that cleared the racial profiling allegations against the officer who detained a Northwestern professor’s son.

In August, EPD Officer Mark Buell handcuffed 13-year-old Diwani Greenwell, the son of Medill Prof. Ava Greenwell, outside his home during a burglary investigation

Sgt. Angela Hearts-Glass approached the committee with an extensive presentation Monday recounting the details of the events surrounding the handcuffing of Diwani. The review included audio from the 911 call, including an initial description of the suspect as a teenage black male wearing khaki cargo shorts and a dark shirt. The report also says Greenwell told officers her son was wearing navy cargo pants.

Hearts-Glass also provided video footage from the vehicles of officers on the scene, in addition to recordings of numerous dispatches among units as they attempted to find suspects in the burglary before Greenwell was handcuffed.

She told the committee that the investigation revealed more misunderstanding than malice in Buell’s actions and that miscommunication between officers led him and others to mistakenly conclude Diwani was attempting to flee police on his bicycle.

Evanston residents disputed the report, testifying there were too many inconsistencies between the suspect’s description and Diwani’s appearance to justify stopping him.

Greenwell and her husband, Dale, also approached the committee to respond to EPD’s findings.

“Had there been more questions asked by the dispatcher, more questions answered by police to me, and better communication clearly from this presentation … we probably wouldn’t be here today,” Greenwell said.

She said the original internal affairs report posted online portrayed her son as “sinister” and sought to discredit the family’s complaints and “deflect blame.”

“My son did nothing wrong, and neither did I,” Greenwell said. “Your department created this problem.”

EPD Chief Richard Eddington said although not everyone may agree with the police department’s conclusions, the compilers of the report “did their jobs and did it well and did it in an equitable fashion.” He said EPD has done its best to be as transparent as possible with the Greenwells.

Eddington said no matter the outcome of further investigations or the Greenwell family’s pending lawsuit, EPD is taking steps to address the issues brought up by Diwani’s detainment. Prof. Aaron Thompson of Eastern Kentucky University will bring additional training to the department to address issues of racial profiling and bias. Eddington said he chose Thompson on a recommendation of another police chief who had severe problems with racial profiling.

The committee moved to accept the review and adopted the measure by unanimous vote.

After the vote, Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said he thought discussion of the issue had to continue.

“After this case has been resolved, there is still that unanswered question in terms of the negative perception that many black residents have in terms of how they’re treated by the Evanston Police Department,” he said. “And I think that’s been the elephant in the room for a number of years.”

Braithwaite and Eddington agreed to sit down and discuss in more detail the steps EPD is taking to eliminate such bias from the force.