Human Services Committee discusses reallocation of EPD personnel


City Council introduced the final version of the 2021 budget for adoption at the next council meeting on Nov. 23.

Julia Richardson, Reporter

The city’s Human Services Committee discussed the potential reallocation of Evanston Police Department personnel in order to prioritize and fund human services during a Monday meeting.

The discussion was sparked by calls from residents to defund the police in response to the murder of George Floyd and  police brutality. Monday’s conversation was a continuation of many regarding alternate emergency response models and investing more in resources for individuals in crisis. Reallocating police resources and personnel would allow Evanston to invest more in human services. 

The city’s corporation counsel, Kelley Gandurski, said the city leadership can implement any objectives necessary under a collective bargaining agreement with city unions — which means City Council members have the authority to redistribute police resources as they see fit, including through a possible decrease in personnel. 

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone on council has the authority to direct the chief of police in allocating his particular resources for emergencies,” Gandurski said. “But the city can prioritize where it sees… the police department’s missions.”

If the City Council voted to decrease EPD personnel, the collective bargaining agreement requires the city to lay off employees based on reverse seniority, protecting officers who have been with the department the longest. The agreement also allows the most senior members to return to work first. 

As a result, officers can’t be laid off exclusively based on position. Additionally, if EPD members protected by the union contract are reallocated to other city departments, they are entitled to the same pay.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) inquired about the ability to remove certain functions within a department if council members felt a department was unnecessary, despite their inability to decide which individuals are laid off or reallocated.

Gandurski said council members have the authority to internally reorganize departments, with the exception of circumstances in which department officials such decide certain resources are necessary for health and safety reasons. 

“If the chief of police were to determine… he needs to reallocate officers to perform a function that city council is seeking to eliminate… I think that’s a separate conversation we would all have to have,” Gandurski said.

Police Chief Demitrous Cook emphasized the possibility of grievances from the union throughout the reallocation process. If filed, grievances could take months to resolve, he said. Gandurski said one problem that may prompt a grievance would be a situation where the council deems a certain function unnecessary but asks other offices to perform a similar function.

During the meeting, the committee also reviewed alternative emergency response system models utilized in Denver and Olympia, Wash. and discussed the possibility of developing a similar program for Evanston. Previously, alternative models to policing have been discussed as part of the mayor’s Q&A series on policing in Evanston. 

Fleming volunteered to lead a subcommittee whose members would discuss this program and would also assist in including the program in the 2021 budget process. She said the formation of the subcommittee needs to be an urgent concern, as the council is set to discuss the possibility of an emergency response system during its next meeting on September 14.

“We have a very large agenda already so whatever we can do to get the committee formed and meeting quickly… we all know that can take some time,” Fleming said. “I want people to be available to participate, but also participate in the budget process.”

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