Schenita Stewart sworn in as Evanston’s next police chief

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Jorge Melendez/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston Police Department. City Council swore in Schenita Stewart as Evanston’s newest and first permanent woman police chief Monday.

Lily Carey , Newsletter Editor

City Council swore in Schenita Stewart as Evanston’s first permanent woman police chief at its Monday meeting.

Evanston Police Department members and residents packed the council chambers, erupting in a standing ovation after Stewart was sworn in by Mayor Daniel Biss. Stewart most recently served as the deputy chief of police for the East Dundee Police Department.

An Evanston native and Evanston Township High School graduate, Stewart said she was excited to be in her “dream job,” serving a community that has meant so much to her over the years.

“This is a home that raised me,” Stewart said. “From birth to high school, you held my hand. I’m forever grateful to each of you, and this wonderful city that I am proud to serve.”

Stewart’s appointment follows a months-long process to find the city’s next police chief. 

Former Police Chief Demitrous Cook retired in June 2021 after he was sued for posting mugshots of EPD suspects, some with written commentary, on his public Snapchat account. His interim replacement, Aretha Barnes, retired in January. Former Police Chief Richard Eddington, who served from 2007 to 2018, returned to temporarily fill the vacancy.

Despite what he referred to as “turbulence” in the selection process, Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said City Council had no hesitations about Stewart’s commitment to the community.

Several councilmembers thanked Eddington for stepping in from January to October, and Biss thanked EPD officials for their continued work amid a period of rapid turnover.

“These have been complicated years in the law enforcement profession, and complicated years in the police department, and you all have been working diligently and professionally and keeping us safe throughout that time,” Biss said. 

Evanston came under fire recently for allegedly violating its employee handbook in the hiring process for its next police chief. The Chicago Tribune reported in August the city did not create a job description nor post the position online, instead drawing candidates only from referrals.

EPD launched a new public trust survey this month to survey specific concerns in each neighborhood and resident attitudes about the department. 

At a Sept. 8 police chief candidate forum, Stewart said she intended to prioritize community engagement while recruiting new officers. Cmdr. Ryan Glew told The Daily in May that the department had 27 officer vacancies, making officer recruitment a priority for Stewart’s term.

As Stewart steps into the role, Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said the resounding show of support from attendees at Monday’s meeting gave her hope for Stewart’s impact on the community.

“This shows that the community is behind it, but I also encourage the community to stay behind it,” Harris said. “This is not just (Stewart’s) job, it is all of our jobs to serve Evanston well, so I look forward to having that partnership.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lilylcarey

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