City committee to discuss panhandling ordinance, EPD body camera program on Monday


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz speaks at a meeting. Bobkiewicz said the city has heard from Evanston residents and downtown businesses that the city needs to do more to address aggressive panhandling.

Ryan Wangman, City Editor

Aldermen will review possible amendments to the city’s panhandling ordinance and receive an update on various Evanston Police Department programs at a Human Services Committee meeting on Monday.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the city has heard from Evanston residents and businesses in the downtown area that the “equilibrium” of how the city has addressed panhandling is not as balanced as it should be. City staff have looked at how other communities have addressed panhandling over the past several years and have proposed an ordinance for discussion to help rectify some of those problems, he said.

Bobkiewicz said the ordinance may stay in committee for a bit of time to fully flesh out the problem, but that residents are prepared to revisit the issue.

“We’ll (talk about this) in a way that of course is respectful of everyone’s individual rights to express themselves,” Bobkiewicz said. “We want to see what makes sense for Evanston.”

According to city documents, the current regulations do not adequately address problems with panhandling and soliciting “near places where individuals are most vulnerable.” The proposed ordinance is “more nuanced” and targets conduct that poses the most important challenge to the community, the documents said.

The EPD report will also include an update on their body camera program, which in January mandated that all field officers wear body cameras while on duty. Evanston deputy police chief Jay Parrott said in January that the move would apply to about 120 officers and that he believed the cameras would increase accountability for officers.

Bobkiewicz said he believed there would be an oral report at the meeting regarding the body cameras. He said it would be the first report made since the program was fully initiated, and that it would detail logistics surrounding the cameras and provide an opportunity to ask any questions about them.

Tensions between the Evanston community and police have risen over the past few years following incidents like the release of a video showing the wrongful arrest of Lawrence Crosby after officers believed Crosby stole a car that turned out to be his. Other controversial incidents include the arrest of 12-year-old Iain Bady for riding on the back of a bicycle that violated traffic laws and the detainment of 60-year-old Gregory Hall, who was handcuffed after he was mistaken for an armed robbery suspect.  

The body camera program received some negative backlash, including from former Ald. Brian Miller (9th), who said the cameras are just “one piece” of police accountability. He said officers in the city have been operating under a policy of “arrest first, ask questions later.”

“This is a recurring pattern in the city, and and I’m glad they are implementing body cameras, but it doesn’t matter unless there is a change in how officers handle arrests,” Miller said in January. “Without a good complaint review process, the body cameras don’t matter.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ryanwangman