Evanston police undergoing internal investigation following arrest of black 12-year-old cyclist


Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

An Evanston Police Department squad car. The department is investigating its actions in the July 14 arrest of Iain Bady.

Ben Pope, Summer Editor

The Evanston Police Department is conducting an internal investigation to determine whether it acted lawfully by arresting a 12-year-old boy for riding on the back pegs of a bike in downtown Evanston in July.

On July 14, police arrested the child, Iain Bady, who is black, and issued him a Formal Station Adjustment — which will go on his record — for violating a city bicycling ordinance, according to documents obtained by The Daily.

EPD Chief of Police Richard Eddington said the investigation was sparked by a citizen’s complaint filed by Rob Bady, Iain’s father and a former candidate for 8th Ward alderman.

Rob Bady told The Daily he believes police acted inappropriately both at the scene and at the station.


Records give timeline of Iain Bady’s arrest

According to a written annotation of police body camera footage regarding “downtown calls of service involving juveniles” on July 14, obtained by The Daily, police first arrived in downtown Evanston at 6:03 p.m. because of a call from an employee of the Burger King at 1740 Orrington Road. The employee claimed that a group of roughly 20 teenagers was refusing to leave.

Over the next hour and a half, EPD officer Anthony Sosa made contact with a teenager who had stolen a man’s wallet, stopped another for disrupting traffic at the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Clark Street, instructed the group of teenagers to disperse and later arrested one group member for failure to disperse, according to the annotation.

In the background of Sosa’s body camera footage for each of these incidents, Iain Bady can be seen but appears uninvolved, according to the annotation. Rob Bady said he saw the videos in a meeting last week with Eddington.

But no body camera footage exists for the incident that led to Iain Bady’s arrest, his father said. That arrest was made at 7:45 p.m. by two other EPD officers — not Sosa — according to the annotation.

The officers observed Iain Bady riding on the back wheel pegs, a female riding on the handlebars and another male riding on the seat of a bike, EPD Cmdr. Joseph Dugan said.

The male on the seat ran a red light at the Sherman-Clark intersection, causing the bike to be nearly hit by several oncoming vehicles, Dugan said. The biker then rode to the Starbucks on Sherman Avenue. After all three disembarked, officers located Bady and the female — but not the biker — and “transported (them) to the station,” Dugan said.

Iain Bady did not dispute any of those details in his description of the event, given during the public comment portion of last Monday’s City Council meeting, and said he realized both his decision to ride on the pegs and his friend’s decision to bike in front of traffic were poor.

But, Iain Bady said, he was given a strange reason for why he in particular was being arrested.

“I also asked the officer why he didn’t arrest the one who was controlling the bike, and he said, ‘He ran away into the store,’” Bady said at the council meeting. “That didn’t make much sense to me because he was the one controlling the bike, and what was I supposed to do, just get off the bike in the middle of traffic?”

After seeing the videos and reports of all that occurred in downtown Evanston that afternoon, Rob Bady told The Daily he had one clear takeaway.

“The connection for me with all of the arrests was they all happened to be African-American,” Rob Bady said. “I hate to make it that, but it’s just very obvious here.”


Potential contradictions from city code

Once at the station, Iain Bady was given a citation for violating an Evanston ordinance that prohibits operating a bicycle in a way that “obstructs motor traffic,” according to an arrest report obtained by The Daily.

No mention was made on the arrest report of an ordinance that prohibits riding a bicycle in “a reckless manner, such as riding on one wheel or performing any other stunts.”

The arrest warrant indicates that Iain Bady was issued an Informal Station Adjustment for the violation and was turned over to his father. But Rob Bady said officers actually required him to sign a Formal Station Adjustment, of which The Daily has obtained a picture, in order to gain custody of his son.

Records of Informal Station Adjustments are maintained with Illinois State Police only if the violation would have otherwise been a felony — which Iain Bady’s offense would not have been — according to the Illinois General Assembly’s website.

But Illinois State Police keep records of all Formal Station Adjustments regardless of offense, and such adjustments are considered “an admission by the minor of involvement in the offense,” according to the Assembly website.

Refusal to sign a Formal Station Adjustment results in referral to juvenile court — a consequence not considered one of the standard punishments for bicycle-related offenses in Evanston city code.

City ordinances indicate that violations of bicycle ordinances should be punished only by a warning, ticket or fine unless the officer determines that “a court appearance is in order, e.g., because of the particular circumstances and/or because of the offender’s history of bicycle related violations.”

“I signed (the formal adjustment) because they led me to believe that if I didn’t sign it, my son wouldn’t be released to me,” Rob Bady said. “I just wanted my son back.”

Rob Bady also said officers told him it was only an informal adjustment and that his son had not been arrested, but rather taken into protective custody.

Not until he requested and obtained physical copies of the arrest report and station adjustment last Monday did he notice the contradiction, he said.

Aug. 14 marked the 31st day since the incident, and parents have only a 30-day window to revoke a station adjustment signature and have the case instead referred to court, according to the adjustment.


EPD investigates matter, aldermen get involved

Eddington said the internal investigation into the matter will follow a standard procedure.

The case will first be reviewed by the department’s Office of Professional Standards, with which Rob Bady filed his complaint and which “investigates allegations of misconduct made against the Department or its employees by citizens,” according to EPD’s website.

After the OPS review, investigation findings will progress to him, then to the Citizens’ Police Advisory Committee, and then to the Human Services Committee, Eddington said.

Eddington told The Daily he could not comment about the details of the arrest, station adjustment or anything else involving the case until the investigation is complete.

Since last Monday, the case has begun to attract substantial attention from Evanston officials, including from Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) and Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) — two of the three black members of City Council and two of the five aldermen on the Human Services Committee.

Braithwaite personally apologized to the Bady family during last Monday’s meeting, saying that “under no situation does this even begin to live up to Evanston’s standards that we have as a community.”

Fleming told The Daily on Thursday that she will follow the investigation closely but wants to keep an open mind until she sees the evidence.

“Obviously as a parent, if you read the headline, that’s disheartening, but I don’t want to say what’s right and what’s wrong without looking at everything,” Fleming said. “If the finding is that our procedures were not followed, it is my job as an elected official to make sure that doesn’t happen again, whether that means changing policies or making a new policy.”

Molly Glick contributed reporting.

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Twitter: @benpope111