Human Services Committee discusses new ways Evanston residents could file police complaints


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th). The city approved a budget with a one percent property tax increase Monday, but Fleming said the city should also draw funding from the University’s $1 million Good Neighbor Racial Equity Fund.

Julia Richardson, Reporter

Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook and Sergeant Aaron Wernick reported new ways residents may file police complaints to the Human Services Committee on Monday.

Cook began the presentation by informing the committee that the Evanston Police Department had completed expansion of the complaint filing process options.

“We did that because people felt unsafe coming into a police department,” Cook said. “They felt inhibited.”

Although the complaint process remains the same after the complaint is filed, residents are now able to file complaints by dialing 311 or by filing either at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center or online.

Cook also reminded the committee that the department is considering new members for the review board, and the complaints mentioned in Monday’s report would be filed once the board members are selected. He also reassured the committee that the police department would inform Evanston residents about their options for complaints as transparently as possible.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) expressed concerns about a few of the complaints included in the report, which were filed in October 2019.

The first complaint she brought up pertains to a woman’s claims that the accused detective gave her a citation, rather than a warning, because a passenger in her vehicle refused to identify herself.

According to the complaint register, the woman alleged that the detective displayed intimidating and discriminatory behavior, and she accused the detective of racial profiling.

Although the register reported four rules that the detective had potentially violated, Fleming asserted that there was another violation not mentioned that pertains to the police officers’ knowledge of the laws. An officer stated that a resident was obligated to show identification by law, which is incorrect.

“I think our officers need to know the policies and the law, and this officer stated very clearly in the video that this was not the law,” Fleming said.

Wernick responded to Fleming by saying that her concern was addressed in the potential violations of other rules, which the woman already reported the detective had allegedly violated.

Fleming disagreed.

The second concern Fleming expressed pertained to a complaint where a man arrested by EPD claimed his handcuffs were too tight, to which officers responded with, “Stop fussing and we’ll loosen them for you.”

However, even when the man complied with these requests, officers failed to loosen the handcuffs, despite the fact that at one point, there were reportedly four to six officers on the scene.

“I wish I would’ve seen more de-escalation on the part of our officers, not just the very basic, ‘I need you to calm down,’” Fleming said. “That clearly wasn’t working for this gentleman in this situation. I would have been more pleased to see that we had some more tools we could’ve used to diffuse the situation.”

Fleming also questioned why these complaints were just now being addressed when they had been filed in October. Cook said they had been completed months ago, and was not sure why they had not gotten to the committee until now.

Fleming suggested that complaints be available to review by City Council, so that the complaints could be addressed in a more timely fashion.

“I think it’s imperative that people are going to have trust in our complaint system,” she said. “That they have a thorough investigation, but then they also have us discuss them or know that they’ve been heard in a respectful manner.”

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