Students could face charges from Oct. 31 NUCNC protest footage; Human Services Committee discusses NIPAS involvement


Daily file photo by Binah Schatsky

Armed NIPAS officers at an NU Community Not Cops protest. Human Services Committee members discussed the city’s relationship with NIPAS in a Monday meeting.

Maia Spoto and Delaney Nelson

Police footage from the Oct. 31 Northwestern Community Not Cops protest is being reviewed to determine whether additional students will receive charges for their actions at the protest, Evanston police chief Demitrous Cook said at Monday’s virtual Human Services Committee meeting.

“I’m not here to destroy a student’s career,” Cook said. “I’m not here to have their parents waste their money, send them to school here and then their kid gets arrested. I don’t agree with that. But sometimes the actions of the people necessitate that, and that’s what the situation was on the 31st.” 

In Fall Quarter 2019, following a month-long investigation into protests against former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, five Northwestern students received citations for “disorderly conduct and interfering with the duties of a police officer.” The charges were later dismissed in Evanston court. 

The NUCNC protests, which called on the University to abolish University Police and cut ties with Evanston and Chicago Police Departments, began in October after the University did not respond for months to a student petition with over 8,000 signatures. The protests, Cook said, cost the city over $88,000 in officer overtime costs.

In an open letter written shortly after NUCNC’s Oct. 31 protest, in which police arrested one Northwestern student and used chemical ammunition against protesters, Mayor Steve Hagerty called on the University to cover the costs of policing for the protests. At Monday’s meeting, Cook recalled UP Chief Bruce Lewis said UP would look into the reimbursement.

Armed police in riot gear from the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System’s Mobile Field Force, a “police mutual aid” group that supplements local police departments with officers from across the region when needed, assisted in EPD’s response to some of the NUCNC protests. Seven Evanston police officers are assigned to the organization. Cook said EPD called NIPAS to help police the protests 10 times, and had NIPAS on standby seven more times, the most Cook has ever seen in one year.

NIPAS officers were seen covering their badges with tape at NUCNC protests, a move some residents said diminishes their accountability. Cook said NIPAS officers often cover their badges to protect against retaliation from protesters. Individuals are unable to requisition information from NIPAS through the Freedom of Information Act, and instead must seek records from individual police departments to review information about individual officers.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) and Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said they were concerned that NIPAS officers are not held to the same standards as Evanston officers. 

“They are really scary looking people and they don’t feel like Evanston, so I’m struggling with our need to bring them in when there is violence and destruction of property.” Revelle said. “I feel grateful that nothing really escalated beyond what we saw, because I think there’s a legitimate concern there could have been something more that would have happened that would have been really tragic.” 

Fleming and Revelle also expressed concern about the conduct of some NIPAS officers via text message. According to Northbrook Police Department records released under the Freedom of Information Act by Medill sophomore Alex Harrison and Medill junior Zach Watson, NIPAS officers present at the Halloween protest discussed hacking into an NUCNC venmo account and using additional force against protesters.

“My trigger finger was jittering,” one police officer texted

Cook said he had a conversation with the vice president of NIPAS and the leader of the mobile field force about the messages. He said he would take “appropriate action” against officers who engaged in online communication that “impacts the organization.”

Cook said he is the commanding officer when EPD calls NIPAS into the city, and is responsible for providing officers with guidance. Cook said he authorized the release of pepper balls on protestors at the Oct. 31 NUCNC protest, and has not received any complaints about the activity of NIPAS officers that night. 

“Any decision that is made when NIPAS is called to the scene, I, Demitrous Cook, police chief, is the one that’s responsible for it,” Cook said. “And I take 100 percent responsibility in whatever happens.”

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said the chief’s decision to call in NIPAS was necessary because of the “violence” and property destruction.

“If we didn’t have the violence from outsiders coming into our community residents, threatening property, residents, threatening violence, we would not have to go to this extreme,” Braithwaite said. 

Although protesters marched through her ward on Oct. 31, Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) was absent from the meeting. The committee is set to meet next month to discuss NU student behavior.

Email: [email protected] and [email protected] 

Twitter: @maia_spoto and @delaneygnelson

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