Citizen Police Review Commission recommends further review of investigation into off-duty officer’s crash


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Citizen Police Review Commission debated the results of an investigation into an incident where an off-duty police officer crashed into a 15-year-old biker.

Saul Pink, Assistant City Editor

The Citizen Police Review Commission debated the results of an Evanston Police Department investigation into an alleged October 2021 incident at its Wednesday meeting. 

The complaint alleged that an off-duty police officer hit a 15-year-old biker on Ridge Avenue and said “Well, this is why we don’t bike on Ridge, right?” while the injured juvenile was lying on the ground. 

An Office of Professional Standards’ investigation found that the two officers on the scene did not violate any EPD rules, after both denied hearing anyone make comments about biking on Ridge.

The commission, however, disagreed after reviewing body camera footage from on-duty officers, ultimately deciding to refer the investigation back to OPS for further review.

The officer who hit the teen was out of uniform and driving a personal vehicle but identified himself as a member of EPD to the biker.  

A second officer, also off-duty, stopped to serve as a witness when he saw the crash at the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Greenwood Street. The EPD also investigated this officer’s role in the incident.

Commission members said they “undoubtedly” heard an officer comment about the teen biking on Ridge in the body camera footage. Commander Ryan Glew said biking is illegal on the street on Ridge Avenue but allowed on the sidewalk.

Commission member Juneitha Shambee said hearing the statements on the body camera footage felt like “almost a way of victim shaming.” 

Nyika Strickland, another member of the commission, agreed and said OPS’s investigation was too lenient toward the officers. 

“It seems that the investigation focused on whether the comments were made to the complainant, the juvenile,” Strickland said. “I don’t think that’s relevant. They were clearly, from watching the video, making them in his presence.”

Douglas Whitmore, a former Illinois state trooper, said the incident should not be considered a violation because the officers were off-duty at the time. 

“If he’s acting on behalf of the city in any capacity, of the squad…yes, I see a violation,” Whitmore said. “But he did stop, he got first-aid, he did everything he was supposed to do.”

But commission members pushed back on Whitmore’s point because the officer identified himself as a member of EPD on the scene.

The teenager’s mother also expressed concerns to EPD about collusion regarding tickets the officer received for hitting her child, according to the commission’s memo. According to Glew, the mother’s suspicion arose after a high number of officers came to the scene.

Sergeant Charlotte Hart, who represented EPD at the meeting, defended the police presence, saying one patrol car was already parked around the corner and others were needed to block intersections surrounding the crash. 

Whitmore recommended EPD devise a specific protocol for officers who get into accidents within city limits while off-duty. Glew said the officer’s supervisor should write a report, rather than one of their peers, and that an outside agency, such as state or county police, should be consulted for serious crashes.  

Shambee said after reviewing the footage, she was concerned that OPS gave its ear to the officers more than the teenager and his mother. 

“(The statements) were made in earshot where he can hear it,” Shambee said. “So it just goes to show that the statements of the officers were given much more weight than the statement of the juvenile.”

The commission’s meeting began late, as it was awaiting a fifth member to form a quorum. Its last meeting, scheduled for Oct. 5, was canceled due to a lack of a quorum, and the commission currently has two vacancies. 

The next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 7.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @saullpink

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