Human Services hears update from citizens police complaint committee


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) speaks at a Human Services Committee meeting. Fleming called for further inquiry into the city’s publication of arrest records.

Kristina Karisch, Development and Recruitment Editor

Following a year of meetings with Evanston residents and city staff, members of the Citizen Police Complaint Assessment Committee presented a status report to aldermen on Monday about the city’s complaint process.

Speaking at a Human Services Committee meeting, Matthew Mitchell, who chairs the working group of the committee, outlined its plans for improving the city’s complaint register form. Currently, residents may submit complaints about police conduct through the form, but Mitchell said the wording and questions are more complicated than they need to be.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with members of the community,” he said. “I’ve found those to be very beneficial.”

The Evanston Police Department currently utilizes a multi-step review process. Once a complaint is filed, the Office of Professional Standards begins an investigation by speaking with the individual who filed it and compiling evidence. The complaint is then reviewed at Citizens’ Police Advisory Committee and Human Services Committee meetings.

Mitchell said the committee focused on three main goals while reworking the complaint form: They looked into ways to help OPS handle complaints effectively, eliminate factors on the form that might discourage people from filling it out and increase transparency during the complaint process.

Mitchell said the new forms would be simpler and more streamlined, and direct residents toward OPS and other resources. He said they should be implemented by EPD within the next month.

In addition to overhauling the complaint forms, he said the working group has also been collecting data and interviewing residents about their experiences with the police in Evanston. These findings — as well as research the group has done into “best practices” for police forces across the country — will be compiled into a formal report, slated to be submitted to council members in October.

“It looked like you are making some very good points (with the forms),” Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said at the meeting.

Aldermen also spoke about the possibility of taking down arrest records from the city’s website at Monday’s meeting. Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) had first raised the issue in March, when she pointed out that the records were searchable online.

She had requested a review of the city’s posting of the Daily Crime Bulletins and the length of time they should be made available to the public. Arrest records are open to the public unless they involve an ongoing or active investigation.

The Daily Crime Bulletins, which are posted to EPD’s page on the city’s website, contain information on “selected incidents” and arrests from initial police reports, according to a city memo. Under the Freedom of Information Act and the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor Opinions, the bulletin must be issued with identifying information, the document said.

Since March, city staff have ensured that the complaints can no longer be searched, said assistant city attorney Mario Treto. Still, Fleming questioned on Monday whether they should be posted on the website at all.

Treto said his department would look into how the bulletins have to be publicized, and whether it would be possible to limit distribution to only individual inquiries and email subscribers.

“I think that people get arrested … all the time and wish they hadn’t,” Fleming said. “I would imagine there are not many people looking every day just out of curiosity to see who got arrested.”

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch