Residents raise concerns as city forms citizen complaint group
March 3, 2017
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Residents expressed concern Thursday about the process of forming a citizen-run committee to evaluate the Evanston Police Department’s complaint review process.
The meeting was the the second public discussion on the topic, as EPD officials presented last week on how the current review process works. On Thursday, city staff presented results of a survey taken on how the city should go about forming the committee.
The process follows calls for reform of the complaint review process after the arrest of Devon Reid as he petitioned for the city clerk position in November, as well as the January release of a video showing the 2015 arrest of Northwestern graduate student Lawrence Crosby after a woman reported that he was stealing a car that turned out to be his.
The citizen complaint working group would be tasked with assessing EPD’s current complaint review procedures and developing suggestions to increase transparency between the police and the community.
Residents filled out the survey in small groups at a Feb. 23 meeting about the citizen complaint working group, answering questions on the structure of the group and skipping questions if desired.
City staff will present responses to the survey and feedback from the two meetings to the Human Services Committee at its meeting on Monday, said Kimberly Richardson, assistant to the city manager.
Richardson presented the survey results to residents in attendance at Thursday’s meeting. More than half of the 25 respondents said they felt the working group should have at least 15 members.
Eleven out of 24 respondents said the working group should include people from “racially and historically oppressed communities.” Roughly the same amount recommended that City Council or the mayor select the members. Five respondents said they felt residents should select group members.
Several residents at Thursday’s meeting expressed concerns over how quickly they felt the process of discussing the working group has gone. Some residents said they did not know their survey responses at the Feb. 23 meeting would be tabulated and presented to the Human Services Committee. As a result, some residents said instead of submitting their own responses, they let others in their small groups submit one response for the group.
Some residents also expressed concern over the small sample size of the survey, saying it is not representative of the entire city.
Richardson said she would take those concerns and include them in her report to the Human Services Committee. She urged residents to also express their concerns at the committee meeting rather than solely to city staff.
“We’re only here to provide feedback,” Richardson said.
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th), who is on the Human Services Committee, attended the meeting and suggested that attendees organize their concerns ahead of Monday’s meeting and then present them as a group.
“It will helpful for the committee to know that we’re not just hearing from individuals but that we’re hearing sort of the voice of the whole group,” Revelle said.
Evanston resident Bobby Burns told The Daily he is trying to organize a meeting over the weekend of residents who attended Thursday’s meeting. Burns said he hopes the group can form a consensus on what to tell the Human Services Committee, adding it’s important for the working group to be formed in a transparent process.
“If it’s not done properly from the beginning, people won’t trust (the group),” Burns said.