Hagerty, school officials defend cops in schools in third virtual Q&A

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Daily file photo by Alison Albeda

Mayor Steve Hagerty. Hagerty said he expects Evanston will receive additional COVID-19 relief funding.

Joshua Irvine, Reporter

In a Monday virtual session, Mayor Steve Hagerty and school and police officials defended the presence of Evanston police in the city’s public schools.

In the third of a series of discussions regarding policing in Evanston, Hagerty asked questions sent by community members to Evanston Township High School/District 202 Principal Marcus Campbell, police Chief Demitrous Cook, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton and a pair of school resource officers stationed at ETHS and in District 65.

The participants presented the school resource officers in a positive light, with Campbell going so far as to say he wanted them to be seen as “educators.”  Campbell also noted the officers were not called in for disciplinary or behavioral issues and repeatedly mentioned the 31 mental health professionals employed by the district. However, he remained adamant the officers could not be replaced by social workers or other professionals.

“There are some things that are simply police matters,” Campbell said. 

He did not name specific circumstances that necessitated officers, beside a brief mention of weapons in schools and a later comment on the threat assessment teams required at Illinois schools.

The session also delved into the EPD’s relationship with Northwestern’s officers through a discussion with University Police Chief Bruce Lewis, who was also present.

Lewis said his officers enjoyed a “healthy relationship” with Evanston police through a “memorandum of understanding,” noting Evanston and University police regularly partner on trainings, share use of a crisis management facility located on campus and allow University police to patrol outside Northwestern property as far west as Green Bay Road. 

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, who viewed the session, told The Daily it was the first time he learned University police had jurisdiction off-campus.    

Cook called the University’s force a “professional police department, just like the Evanston police.” Cook began his police career at Northwestern in 1981, a fact he noted during the session.

Cook also said Evanston police would need to hire more officers if the University were to disband its police force. A petition calling on Northwestern to cut ties with the EPD and disband University police has garnered more than 8,000 signatures. 

Like past sessions, residents could ask questions through a form available on the city’s Facebook page as well as in the comments section of the Facebook live stream. Hagerty addressed several resident inquiries, including whether the SROs received special training — they do — whether Evanston police could enter Northwestern dorms and Greek housing — only at the University police’s request — and whether SROs would be reassigned while public schools were closed — they would, but will return when in-person classes began.

However, the format of the session meant not all questions were answered.   

In one instance, Hagerty asked Officer Loyce Spells about his duty equipment, apparently based on a question from a viewer who asked about “potential weapons” carried by the ETHS SRO. Spells responded he wore a blue EPD uniform and “duty belt,” without any further description.

“We are not there to police the students,” Spells said. “This is what you will get.” 

Spells later told The Daily he carries several non-lethal weapons on his belt, including a taser and pepper spray.  He also carries a firearm.  

 Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joshuajirvine

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