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Policing and community safety at forefront of Evanstonians' minds

There's much necessary discussion right now about policing, over-policing, racism, and how we can make all members of our community safer with less and different law enforcement and more support of residents through increased investment in education, early childhood interventions, mental health, and so on.

Every opportunity to talk, learn, and then move toward change is crucial.

Divest-Invest: The Evanston Budget & Community Safety

Last night, The Citizens' Network of Protection - Evanston, IL, The People's Lobby, DefundEPD, and Reclaim Evanston presented a Zoom discussion about the history of policing and the future of community safety and police accountability in Evanston.

I'll post video from that event when it's available.

Policing and race in Evanston

If you missed Evanston City Clerk's Office/Devon Reid's panel discussion last week on policing and race, you can watch that here.

Defunding 101

Earlier this month, on June 11, the young women of Evanston Fight for Black Lives organized a community discussion called Defund 101, which drew more than 150 Evanston residents to Mason Park.

Citizen Police Review Commission

Last week, Mayor Hagerty appointed nine members to the new Citizen Police Review Commission, which passed by a narrow 5-4 vote at Monday's City Council meeting, with Aldermen Fiske, 1; Rue Simmons, 5; Suffredin, 6; and Fleming, 9, voting against the appointments.

The commission reports to the Human Services Committee.

The Citizen Police Review Commission is established as a subcommittee of the City’s Human Services Committee, and, according to the City's description, is intended to:

—Promote public confidence in the professionalism and accountability of the City of Evanston’s Police Department through unbiased review of the investigation of citizen complaints, thoughtful policy recommendations;

—Add a citizen perspective to the evaluation of citizen complaints;

— Provide a timely, fair and objective review of citizen complaints and the manner which they are investigated; and

— Provide a systematic means to achieve continuous improvement in citizen and police interactions..

Members, appointed by Mayor Steve Hagerty, are:

Jamal Graham - one-year term

A lifelong Evanston resident and aspiring teacher. Currently, attends the University of Illinois in Chicago and is an employee at Westminster Place in the 6th Ward. Volunteers at Beth Emet's Soup Kitchen, tutors students, and fundraises for charities.

Blanca Lule - one-year term

Has lived in Evanston for 25 years. Works as a paralegal and manager. Previously worked at the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois, where she helped investigate misconduct.

Rick Marsh - one-year term

Has lived in Evanston for 36 years. After his career as a professional athlete in the NBA, he spent his professional career in corporate America. In Evanston, he has been involved as a coach and a mentor in FAAM, Board President of Curt's Café, and served on Evanston Park & Recreation Board. Graduate of Evanston Community Foundation's Leadership Evanston.

Shahna Richman - two-year term

Has lived in Evanston for 40 years. Former police officer and detective with the. City of New Haven, CT, Police Department, and special agent for the FBI. She's a volunteer educator for civil rights, forensic science, and criminal justice. Has volunteered with the YWCA-North Shore, St. Leonard's House Ministries, Connections for the Homeless, the Innocence Project, and Girls on the Run.

Nikko Ross - two-year term

A lifelong Evanston resident. Currently working towards his Bachelor's degree at Northwestern University and is employed at Rice Education Center located in the 9th Ward. Founder of Brother to Brother, a minority male-mentoring program.

Juneitha Shambee - two-year term

Has lived in Evanston for 13 years. Practicing attorney specializing in criminal and civil defense, with her office located in the 4th Ward. Board member of the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership (OPAL) and a board member of the Democratic Party of Evanston (DPOE).

Nyika Strickland - three-year term

Has lived in Evanston for 21 years. Partner with Kirkland & Ellis, which practice specializes in intellectual property law. Served on the executive board of School for Little Children, provided pro-bono immigration law services, and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and the Ronald McDonald House.

Clarence Weaver - three-year term

Has lived in Evanston for 34 years. Along with his wife, Wendy, owns C&W Market in the 5th ward. Active member of Second Baptist Church and the community, board member of Y.O.U., and supports community efforts to address food insecurities in Evanston.

Douglas Whitmore - three-year term

Lifelong Evanston resident. Retired Illinois State Police Officer. Owns American Defensive Driving School in downtown Evanston, located in the 1st Ward. Started out as a teacher at Nichols Middle School.

Of the nine members, two--Doug Whitmore and Shahna Richman--are former police officers--which doesn't sit well with the nonprofit organization Citizens Network of Protection, which was established to assist Evanston residents with filing complaints against police officers’ misconduct.

CNP spokesperson Neal Weingarten said CNP is disappointed that Mayor Hagerty appointed former officers to the commission.

"We hate the simple appearance of bias that goes along with being ingrained in police culture," Weingarten says. "The civil rights violations by police investigated by the police shouldn't be overseen by former police. Oversight hasn't worked for the last 100 years, because it isn't independent. While we believe the current oversight commission is toothless with no true power or authority, the optics are horrible and will further erode the trust the community has that oversight is even possible. Black-led oversight advocacy groups across our nation overwhelmingly agree the police have no place in civilian oversight. With that said, we encourage the two former law enforcement officers hand selected to this commission by Mayor Hagerty to resign immediately."

But commission appointee Juneitha Shambee, disagrees.

"I think it's great to have two former officers on the committee," she said. "It will allow some perspective from both sides to come to well-rounded solutions. 

Shambee says she applied to the commission because she wants to be a voice for affected civilians.

"It is time that police are held accountable for their actions," she says. "They need to understand that they have a duty to protect all the citizens of the city while conducting themselves with professionalism and impartiality. I look forward to making sure that citizens' complaints are given fair consideration and not just brushed off as nonsense. We all have to live and work in this community and it would be better that it be done with a collaborative effort."

I reached out to the other newly appointed commission members to find out why they applied and what they hope the commission can accomplish. Here are some of their responses.

Jamal Graham

"First, I believe one way to improve social injustice and inequality is for African Americans like myself to take positions like these. African Americans kids for the most part don’t have aspirations of being a doctor, lawyer, policemen, teacher, etc. Most of our role models rap, sell drugs, or play sports. There is nothing wrong with those aspirations, but in our communities it has almost become the only way to make it in life because of how society has positioned our race for centuries.

One of our very own community members was unjustly shot by Skokie Police. His name is Demetrius Bogan. I won’t say too much because the case is still open, but I will say this, the way they’re trying to portray Demetrius isn’t correct. They see dreads and tattoos and try to portray him as a monster. No-one talks about how he has inspired kids in community, or the fact that he is a rising musician with a lot of ahead of him.

What I hope to achieve from being a part of the Evanston Citizens Police Commission is to provide the next generation with the best support system possible."

Rick Marsh

"I applied because I saw an opportunity to add insight to making Evanston a better community for all, specifically, though, for African American youth.  This is an important time in our country and city and I want to be a part of the solution. I've been an Evanston resident for 36 years and I’m hoping that my insights as a longtime volunteer in support of youth development will be additive. And, having 35 years in the corporate sector will hopefully be helpful in the the strategic planning process of the commission."

Nikko Ross

"There is a historical and psychological dissonance that rests with the Black community and the police," said Nikko Ross. "I applied for the commission hoping to bridge the gap. I'm excited about the appointment and look forward to the dialogue amongst this diverse group."


In other policing and public safety news ...

The City has established a "Police Policies and Training FAQ" online.


The City has committed to conduct a 90-day evaluation of its Police Use of Force policies through the Mayor's pledge to the Obama Foundation.

Mayor Hagerty has pledged to:

  • Review the police use of force policies in our community;

  • Engage the community by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in the review;

  • Report the findings to the community and seek feedback within 90 days of signing this pledge; and

  • Reform police use of force policies based on findings.


To learn more and get involved in police, race, and community safety issues:


Books to read ...

  • Race and Police Brutality: Roots of an Urban Dilemma, by Malcolm D. Holmes, Brad W. Smith

(with thanks to Lesley Williams for help compiling this list)


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