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All about Policing in Evanston

Policing--as it pertains to violence, race, and equity--is one of the most discussed issues of the day throughout the country, and right here in Evanston.

Mayor Hagerty's Q&A Discussion Series on Policing

This afternoon, Mayor Steve Hagerty held the second in his series on policing in Evanston in response to a growing call for the City to defund the EPD and reallocate funding to initiatives that address racial inequity such as those that focus on reparations, restorative justice, education, mental health, drug addiction, housing, and employment.

This hour-long presentation examined the Evanston Police Department's budget and featured EPD Chief Demitrous Cook, EPD Manager of Budget and Finance Lou Gergits, and Northwestern University sociology professor Andrew V. Papachristos.

Professor Papachristos provided a framework for what defunding the police means, a brief history of the movement (which began in the 60s),, and what kinds of decisions would need to be made to defund Evanston's police, and while Chief Cook and Lou Gergits offered an overview of the EPD, its budget, an in-depth look at the various areas of operation in the police department, and how funding is allocated across the department.

Papachristos talked about how cities around the country (and the globe) are trying ways to take responses to homelessness, for example, or sex work, outside of the police and get trained social workers or crisis intervention specialists in those spaces.

"Even within the space of schools, or gun violence, we’re starting to see ways that can remove some of the burden from budgets of police but also making sure some of the first responders to those situations aren’t necessarily an armed police officer but professionals who might have more specific training around, say, partner violence or substance abuse," he said.

We need to understand, he said, what people are asking the police to do, what we’re funding the police to do, "and take a moment to decide as a city, or as a town, which of those things we think might be better served elsewhere."

If you're following national and local news and opinions about whether and how to defund the police, this is a fascinating look at how the police department allocates its $41.1 million budget in the context of calls for defunding.

Mayor Hagerty's session last week focused on police training. You can watch it here.

Mark your calendars for the next several Mondays for more discussion centered on how policing is done in Evanston. The presentations begin at noon and are streamed live on the City's Facebook page:

  • July 20: Evanston Police Department in schools: the role of School Resource Officers

  • July 27: Police use of force and body cameras in Evanston

  • August 3: How does the police complain process work?

School Resource Officers at ETHS: Should they stay or should they go?

This morning, the ETHS school board discussed the role of its School Resource Officers, who are Evanston Police Department officers, and whether they should remain or whether the school should stop using them. You can watch that discussion here (it starts at 1:36). No vote was taken.

District 65 voted to eliminate its school resource officers, as did Oak Park River Forest High School and several Chicago schools.

What do you think? Should ETHS keep SROs (ETHS has two) or remove police officers from school and use that funding instead for social workers, restorative practices, and other trauma care?

And for more on policing in Evanston ...

Read and discuss The End of Policing with DE's racial justice book group

Make sure to sign up for DE's next racial justice book group on Zoom, Tuesday, August 18 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., when we'll be discussing The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale. We'll be hearing directly from Professor Vitale and then breaking into small, facilitated discussion groups.

Find out how to get a book and register here.

Connect with the young activists at Evanston Fight for Black Lives . . .

They're helping Evanston residents understand what police defunding is and why they're pushing so hard for it to happen here. They organize a variety of actions and conversations for anyone who wants to learn more or get involved.

On Saturday, they held a Zoom event, "Defunding 102," for community members to talk about what defunding means and what it would look like in Evanston. Yesterday, they held a block party outside the EPD building. Tonight they're sitting in outside City Council members homes during the City Council meeting (happening now!) to show that constituents are watching and demand defunding.

Coffee and Conversation with EC2C's Advocates for Action and EPD

On Saturday morning, Chief Cook, Officers Adam Howard and Tosha Wilson, and Sgt. Scott Sophier talked to members of Advocates for Action about their thoughts on community policing, over-policing, defunding the police, and how the EPD addresses mental health within the department. The half-hour program was co-hosted by Radio La Difference and facilitated by Advocates for Action Coordinator Kimberly Holmes-Ross and took place on Saturday morning.


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