Evanston PD seeks to improve community relations through law literacy program

Amanda Svachula, A&E assistant editor

The Evanston Police Department is launching a new law literacy program this month aimed at combating violence and strengthening relationships between police and community members.

Evanston officials brought the new program, “The Law and Your Community,” to the city in partnership with Chicago’s Metropolitan Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE). In the wake of two recent Evanston homicides that police believe are gang-related, the city is taking action to reduce violence and restore a sense of safety among residents, Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said at Monday’s City Council meeting.

“It’s a response to violence in the community,” Holmes told The Daily. “It’s about strategies between the police and people. Police can’t (decrease violence) by themselves.”

About seven Evanston police officers were certified by NOBLE as official instructors in May, Evanson police officer Enjoli Daley said. Within the program, officers will teach participants more about how laws are devised and what law enforcement’s place in the larger criminal justice system. Instructors also address topics like robbery, battery crimes and cyber-bullying as well as how individuals should interact with law enforcement, Daley said.

Officers will hold classes in churches, community centers and after-school programs in Evanston, police said. The sessions are customizable to the needs of individual organizations and are accessible to all ages.

Chicago, which implemented the program in January in its public schools, is one of 59 NOBLE chapters in the U.S. The pilot of the law literacy program was tested in Ferguson, Missouri, after tension between police and the community flared in response to the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

“Recent national events show that there is a need for healing on both sides,” said Carla Kupe-Arion, director of community relations for Chicago’s NOBLE chapter. “There is a need to educate the community of the right way and wrong way, but also for law enforcement to engage and talk with the community to solve problems of tension.”

The Evanston Police Department also implemented a program last week to combat violence, particularly in locations of recent shots fired reports. Two officers are deployed each day with the task of recovering firearms through tips from confidential informants and social media. Police on the assignment recovered two handguns in separate locations on Wednesday.

Versions of the law literacy program have been implemented in Evanston in the past but were never fully established, Daley said.

“The main goal is to educate people about what their rights are and what’s considered a crime,” she said. “Often, teenagers get information from other teenagers. This to make sure they’re getting accurate information and building relationships with police officers.”

In Evanston, several organizations are in the planning stages of implementing the program, Daley said.

“This program is an eye-opener for a lot people,” she said. “It allows them to take a step in the shoes (of the police) and see what we feel like.”

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