Citizens’ Network of Protection discusses proposed police oversight board, police chief appointment process


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

An Evanston Police Department officer. The Citizens’ Network of Protection discussed its proposal for a citizen police oversight board at a Thursday meeting.

Elena Hubert, Assistant City Editor

The Citizens’ Network of Protection discussed its proposal for a citizen police oversight board, which would appoint the police chief and approve the department budget, at a Thursday meeting.

CNP, a grassroots group dedicated to police oversight, proposed a new board, the Evanston Board of Police Oversight, Accountability and Transparency, which would review civilian complaints to ensure the Evanston Police Department maintains citizens’ rights. The board would consist of residents elected from all the wards, who would be given the power to appoint a police chief, among other powers.

The proposal has been in the works since 2008, and CNP President and Co-Founder Betty Ester said the organization plans to bring it to City Council by mid-2023.

Ester said giving an independent board the ability to choose the police chief would streamline the appointment process. Since former Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook retired last June, EPD has been without a permanent chief for almost a year. 

“We can start looking for a police chief right away, and you don’t have to wait (for) this long, drawn-out process that the city is doing now,” Ester said.

Under the proposal, the police chief appointed by the proposed board would serve a four-year term. The board would vote whether to renew the chief’s contract, and members would also supervise the chief with measures including annual evaluations. 

The board would also approve the department’s annual budget to be sent to City Council, which would likely reduce spending on police, Ester said.

CNP is looking for community feedback before presenting the proposal to the council, she said. If community members support the proposal, Ester said she hopes it won’t be “chopped up” by councilmembers.

Ester said CNP has sent the proposal to various police oversight commissions to solicit feedback, including ones in Cincinnati and Detroit, and has received favorable responses.

At the meeting, Elliot Zashin, a member of progressive advocacy group Reclaim Evanston, said the board’s proposed responsibility to appoint the chief would likely be controversial among residents. 

He said CNP should advertise the extensive work that went into the proposal so residents will seriously consider its strengths.

“Otherwise, I think people might think, ‘Well, why don’t we just get a good police chief?’” Zashin said. 

Ester said the board would protect Evanston residents’ rights, particularly those in minority groups. EPD officers arrest Black pedestrians 19 times more than white pedestrians, according to information gathered from a March 2021 Freedom of Information Act request by CNP.

Founded in 2008, CNP’s goals include “promoting racial and economic justice within the legal system, preventing government overreach and abuse in the area of law enforcement and upholding civil rights in the community,” according to its website.

Ester emphasized CNP’s proposed board would support the police department by “curtailing” their behavior and reducing the amount of lawsuits filed against it. 

This is a document for the people, to help protect the people and at the same time will protect the police department,” Ester said. “But the main thing is to protect the people.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @elenahubert25

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