Evanston police, residents meet for first complaint review process planning meeting


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington attends a Human Services meeting. Eddington and other officials from EPD presented the current process for citizen complaint reviews at a community meeting Thursday evening.

Ryan Wangman, Assistant City Editor

Evanston residents worked toward creating a citizen-run committee to evaluate the Evanston Police Department’s complaint review process at a meeting Thursday.

The committee would be tasked with assessing EPD’s current complaint review procedures and developing suggestions to increase transparency between the police and the community, Evanston police Cmdr. Joseph Dugan told The Daily.

The meeting was intended to inform residents of the current review process. At the end of the meeting, attendees worked in small groups to brainstorm ideas for a new review process that will be condensed and presented at the next Human Services Committee meeting.

Dugan praised the dedication of the volunteers on the mayor-appointed Citizens’ Police Advisory Committee, which is currently in place to review complaints against officers after they been investigated by EPD’s Office of Professional Standards.

“Whether it’s department procedures, policies, local ordinances … there’s a lot they have to learn and get into in order to (conduct) their review,” Dugan said.

The desire to establish this new committee comes after the arrest of Devon Reid as he petitioned for city clerk in November, and last month’s release of a video showing the 2015 arrest of Northwestern graduate student Lawrence Crosby. In the video, Crosby, who is black, is shown being thrown to the ground as officers kick and punch him. Both incidents sparked calls for increased police accountability in Evanston.

Evanston Police Cmdr. Jody Wright, who works with EPD’s Office of Professional Standards, outlined the current process for evaluating citizen complaints.

An Evanston resident can file a complaint several different ways, including via email, phone call or in person at various community centers, Wright said. After those complaints are filed, they filtered through the Office of Professional Standards, where the office investigates the complaint by compiling and sifting through evidence. Then the findings are presented to the accused officer’s immediate supervisor, Wright said.

“Our complaint process is set up in a way that is kind of like a system of check and balances. … We have various people (handling the process) to make sure there’s not one individual responsible for all those tasks,” Wright said.

After the supervisor makes a recommendation, the case is passed through a chain of command until it gets to the chief of police, who makes a disciplinary recommendation based on the severity of the allegation and the officer’s disciplinary history, Wright said.

As part of recent reforms to the complaint process, the case is then sent to solely the Citizen Police Advisory Committee and the Human Services Committee. The police chief-appointed Evanston Police Advisory Committee, which formerly reviewed cases, is being disbanded due to community “perception issues” in regards to officers objectivity, Dugan said.

Police Chief Richard Eddington said he wants the complaint review system to be “administration-proof.” City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said at a Human Services Committee meeting last month the city would be hosting a series of public meetings on this issue.

“The longest journey begins with a single step,” Eddington said. “We’ve committed to that step this evening.”

The Human Services Committee will present the initial framework for a citizen complaint working group at their next meeting on March 6.

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Twitter: @ryanwangman