"I’m concerned about our young people. A number of them are not getting educated, they're not working, they're not doing anything, so they're becoming involved in illegal activities. We need to inspire kids to do something else."
William Logan was born and raised in Evanston and was Evanston’s first African American Chief of Police. He joined the police force in 1957 and became Police Chief in 1984. He served for three years and then retired to become the Director of Safety and Security at ETHS where he worked for 20 years. Logan's wife was a native Evanstonian, and they raised their three children here. All of his children still live in Evanston where they continue his legacy of working for positive change in the community.
Amy Monday recently caught up with Bill Logan at his home.
Q: What inspired you to become a police officer?
A: I needed a job. I had come back to Evanston after fighting in the Korean War and I was working as a truck driver. But they went on strike. After a few days of walking the picket line, I wanted to do something else. My father saw in the Evanston Review that they were hiring police officers. At first I didn’t want to apply because I had heard that they didn’t hire African Americans. But I applied. It turned out that the Director of Personnel was a former teacher of mine. I was one of two African Americans hired.
Q: How did you become the first African-American police chief?
A: Education was the key. When I was a detective, I was assigned to guard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he visited Evanston in 1963. He was so grateful for the protection. He said that in the South the police officers were looking for reasons to arrest him, not looking to protect him. On the final day of his visit, he asked me about my time in the EPD. I said liked the job, but I was thinking of quitting because there didn’t seem to be opportunities for African Americans to advance within the department. He asked me how much schooling I had had. I told him that I only had 18 months of college because I left to fight the Korean War. He told me, “Education will be the key to your future.” So I went back to school and got my B.A. in public administration. The year I received my degree was the first year the EPD announced that only officers with a four-year degree could become chief of police.
Q: What were the biggest issues when you became chief of police?
A: Gang violence. When I became chief of police, Evanston was seeing two to three gang killings a year. I called for a meeting with the gang members in Evanston. Not all of them attended, but a lot did. I told them they could be arrested or they could go back to school. If they chose school, the EPD would help them. Some took me up on my offer. I remember there were two gang members who were enrolled at Oakton Community College, but they had no transportation to get to class. I made arrangements for Sam McKinley, owner of Best Taxi Service, to drop them off and pick them up every day.
Q: What were some of the programs you implemented as chief of police?
A: I started several community programs because it’s not just the police department that can prevent violence, it’s the police and community. I started a Foot Patrol program. I assigned a police officer to the west side and to the south side. These police officers had a very positive effect on the community. They often attended community meetings with gang members. I also began an annual Citizen Police Awards Dinner program which recognized citizens and police officers for outstanding service to the community. I asked professors from several different colleges who lived in Evanston to start a Police Citizen’s Research Advisory Committee.
After much research within the community, the Committee advised the EPD increase the number of community meetings for Evanston residents to engage directly with police officers. I also worked closely with Mothers Against Gangs (of which Mayor Tisdahl was an early member) and the Police Clergy Team. The Police Clergy Team comprised clergy from churches all over Evanston. They met with families of victims of gang violence. They counseled police officers and often rode in squad cars with police.
Q: Other than police and safety work, what work have you been involved in?
I helped found the FAAM Youth Basketball Program and the Chessmen Club of the North Shore, Inc. , which has provided scholarships and food to low-income households every year for the past 58 years. I also co-founded the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), which has over 3,000 members nationwide. Today I serve on community boards including the Rotary Club, Evanston Community Foundation, Evanston's Parks and Recreation, and the Levy Center Foundation.
Q: What can be done to address violence in Evanston now?
A: I’m concerned about our young people. A number of them are not getting educated, they're not working, they're not doing anything, so they're becoming involved in illegal activities. We need to inspire kids to do something else. There are some who are reaching out to these young people, but there needs to be more. Easy access to guns is a really big problem; it’s a problem in all communities. When I was police chief there weren’t as many guns out there.