Panelists discuss police-civilian interactions, protocol at Levy Center event

Evanston+Police+deputy+chief+James+Pickett+discusses+EPD+regulations+regarding+civilian-police+interactions+Wednesday+night.+More+than+60+people+attended+the+event+held+at+the+Levy+Senior+Center.+
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Panelists discuss police-civilian interactions, protocol at Levy Center event

Evanston Police deputy chief James Pickett discusses EPD regulations regarding civilian-police interactions Wednesday night. More than 60 people attended the event held at the Levy Senior Center.

Evanston Police deputy chief James Pickett discusses EPD regulations regarding civilian-police interactions Wednesday night. More than 60 people attended the event held at the Levy Senior Center.

Mariana Alfaro/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston Police deputy chief James Pickett discusses EPD regulations regarding civilian-police interactions Wednesday night. More than 60 people attended the event held at the Levy Senior Center.

Mariana Alfaro/Daily Senior Staffer

Mariana Alfaro/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston Police deputy chief James Pickett discusses EPD regulations regarding civilian-police interactions Wednesday night. More than 60 people attended the event held at the Levy Senior Center.

Mariana Alfaro, Development and Recruitment Editor

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Evanston Police deputy chief James Pickett, one of four panelists discussing police-civilian interactions at an event Wednesday night, said that although he is proud to be a police officer, he cannot defend the recent deaths of civilians by police that have garnered national attention.

“My 11-year-old kid looked at me and said, ‘Daddy, why are officers killing people?’” he said during a panel held Wednesday night at the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave. “I’m a 23-year veteran and I’m proud of what I did, I look at myself in the mirror every day and know that I have not abused anybody, I take this job seriously … but when my child is looking at us like now we’re the villains, that’s a hard pill to swallow. I can’t defend everything that happens.”

Attorneys Lori Roper and Richard Dickinson and First Defense Legal Aid member Charles Jones joined Pickett on the panel, which addressed questions about conduct in police encounters and citizens’ rights.

The event, titled “Interacting with the Police: Know Your Rights and Resources,” was co-hosted by Evanston aldermen Peter Braithwaite and Delores Holmes and several alumni chapters of National Pan-Hellenic Council sororities and fraternities.

“The playing field is not leveled on the streets,” Dickinson said. “The police have guns and you don’t. You don’t want to get confrontational with someone who can kill you. The objective is to get through that encounter and eventually get to a courtroom where logic and reason come into play.”

All four panelists spoke about different experiences they’ve had not only as attorneys, counselors and officers, but also as civilians dealing with the law.

Their primary advice to the audience of more than 60 people was to cooperate with the police and remain calm, but to keep their rights in mind at all times.

“I always say, ‘He who survives the encounter controls the narrative,’” Roper said. “If you’re dead, we can never get your side of the story. What will happen is, they’ll start concocting what they thought or they will say happened.”

Roper cited the case of Sandra Bland, a woman found hanged to death in a jail cell this summer in Waller County, Texas, after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation, as an example, saying the public can never really know what happened to her.

Roper also spoke about a time when she and her daughter were stopped in traffic because police said her car looked exactly like one they were looking for. She said she got through the encounter by remaining calm and cooperative.

“They pulled the car over, yanked open the doors, guns drawn,” Roper said. “But I told my baby ‘baby don’t move’ … and she stayed there, and she listened.”

The panelists agreed court settlements are better and faster if a civilian stays cooperative throughout the police encounter because it is better to argue an issue with a lawyer present than alone with a police officer.

“There’s nothing you can say at that point because, again, unfortunately, we’re gonna exclude Mr. Pickett here, but there are a lot of officers that probably shouldn’t even be on the force,” Roper said. “Please, just survive the encounter. Anything that needs to be done legally, let your lawyer handle that in court.”

One solution to police brutality that has taken hold nationally is the use of body cameras on officers’ uniforms to monitor police conduct. Due to a lack of grant funding and potential budget cuts, Evanston Police chief Richard Eddington told The Daily last month the department is unlikely to start using body cameras in the near future.

Pickett discussed the use of police body cameras at the panel, and said though Evanston officers were not granted the funding necessary for camera implementation, the Evanston Police Department is looking to communicate better with the Evanston public to find ways to address this issue.

Evanston resident Trisha Linwood, who attended the event, said it is disappointing that EPD officers won’t have body cameras. However, she said she felt very fortunate to live in Evanston because of the different rules and regulations the police department has in place to assist citizens in filing complaints and making sure things are done properly.

“We have a police force that’s proactive instead of reactive,” she said.

Email: alfaro@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @marianaa_alfaro

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