Citizen Police Review Commission discusses officer’s alleged racial bias

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Daily file photo by Christopher Vazquez

Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook. Cook was present at the meeting and will make the ultimate determination of whether disciplinary action is warranted.

Christina Van Waasbergen, Reporter

The Evanston Citizen Police Review Commission concluded Wednesday that an investigation into an allegation of race-based preferential treatment by an Evanston Police Department officer was insufficient for the second time and returned the case to EPD for further review.

 The investigation involves a car crash in June 2020. A witness to the incident alleges the accused officer failed to conduct a complete investigation of the crash. 

The complainant alleges the officer did not calculate the excessive speed of the driver, give the driver a field sobriety test, make an arrest or issue a citation. He claims this was an indication of racial bias because the driver was White and wealthy.

The meeting marks the committee’s second review of EPD’s investigation. Committee members again found the department’s evaluation insufficient. Members of the review commission disagreed with departmental findings which said there was no evidence of racial bias.

Commission member Shahna Richman said body camera footage of the incident makes clear the harmful impact of White privilege, and called the incident “a failing of our police department.” 

“I know my brown children would not be given that opportunity (that the driver was given),” she said.

In its initial investigation into the incident, EPD concluded the witness’s allegations were unfounded, finding the officer accountable for only a few minor violations, including incorrectly filling out a traffic report. 

The department’s second review concluded the officer was wrong in failing to make an arrest, as the driver said he was 20 years old and one of the vehicle’s passengers said the driver had been drinking, giving probable cause for an arrest for a zero tolerance DUI, according to Evanston police Cmdr. Ryan Glew. 

The department found no evidence of racial bias. EPD attributed the officer’s shortcomings to her being a “rookie” cop near the end of a 12-hour shift, and recommended she go through training to address the shortcomings.

On Wednesday, the commission ruled that EPD needs to review the body camera footage of other police officers who were at the scene and further investigate the accused officer’s statement about the incident. 

Members of the commission took issue with the accused officer’s report that she did not observe any signs of intoxication, and wanted her to explain her reasoning. 

Evanston police chief Demitrous Cook said the officer failed to do her job, but the claims that bias played a role in the officer’s actions are “subjective.” 

Commission member Juneitha Shambee disagreed with the chief. 

“A racist person doesn’t have to make a declaration that ‘I’m racist,’” Shambee said. “It’s their actions that lets us know who they are.”

Commission members agreed to review the case again in May.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @cvanwaasbergen

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