Council approves $90,000 settlement in class-action lawsuit against Chief Cook

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Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Two Evanston Police Department vehicles parked alongside one another. The city will pay $90,000 to settle a lawsuit against Chief Cook over his sharing of booking photos on Snapchat.

Alex Harrison, Reporter

City Council approved a $90,000 settlement Monday to end a class-action lawsuit filed against Evanston Police Department chief Demitrous Cook after he publicly posted multiple residents’ private information last February.

The lawsuit alleged that Cook’s actions violated the plaintiffs’ rights to due process and equal protection, and stemmed from an incident where Cook uploaded booking photos of over 30 individuals to his public Snapchat story. The photos contained subjects’ private information, including full names, birth dates and home addresses along with written notes including “in custody,” “HIV” and “DOA” (dead on arrival). 

The lawsuit, filed in May 2020, claimed Cook, and by extension the city, violated the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment right to due process by publicly releasing their home addresses. It also alleged that since only photos of non-White people were uploaded, the plaintiffs’ right to equal protection was violated.

“Even though white individuals have committed criminal acts in the City of Evanston, Defendant Cook did not publicly share booking photographs and personal information of white civilians,” the complaint reads. “By treating minority civilians and Caucasian civilians in such a different manner, Defendant Cook violated Plaintiffs’ right under the Fourteenth Amendment to Equal Protection.”

Cook apologized for his posts days after they were posted, and said the posts were accidental, and he had meant to save the photos to his device.

The court dismissed several of the claims on Oct. 12, including for due process, finding the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that they suffered any damages from Cook’s actions.

In response, the due process claim was amended two days later to include specific injury claims, including plaintiffs suffering gunshot wounds and damage to their homes from bullet holes. The amended claim alleged the shootings were a direct result of Cook releasing the plaintiffs’ addresses.

Court records indicate the parties began working on the council-approved $90,000 settlement in December. The settlement covers all claims and attorney’s fees, and brings the class-action suit to a close.

The settlement passed 7-1, with Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) as the only opposing vote. He expressed his frustration with the suit during discussion.

“It has cost the city upwards of $130,000 at this point,” Suffredin said. “As far as I can tell, there has been no accountability from the employee responsible for it.”

A separate lawsuit brought against Cook is still ongoing. Resident Kevin Logan filed a separate lawsuit last February, claiming damages for the release of his booking photo with the note “HIV” written next to it. Logan tested negative for HIV on Feb. 22, and claims that the note infringed on his 14th Amendment right to due process by releasing private medical information.

Logan’s suit is currently in its pre-trial phase, and a status hearing is set for June 6.

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Twitter: @alexhairysun

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