Tonight, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., the City of Evanston and the Evanston Police Department will host a community meeting to discuss the hiring process for Evanston's new police chief who will replace retiring Chief Richard Eddington.
The meeting will be held in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge. Gilo Kwesi Cornell Logan of Logan Consulting Services will facilitate, and residents will have the chance to ask questions and contribute thoughts about the qualities and characteristics they hope to see in the next EPD head.
This will be the only public meeting for Evanston residents to offer input, share concerns, and ask questions before the interview process begins the week of November 12.
Video of the meeting will be streamed live on the EPD's Facebook page. The event will also be promoted on social media using the hashtag #NextEPDChief.
But two Evanston organizations say that's not enough.
Two weeks ago, OPAL and The Citizens' Network of Protection sent a letter to City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz requesting greater citywide participation of residents in the selection process.
That, they say, should include at least three community gatherings before the selection process begins so that residents can "provide feedback about the characteristics and qualifications that are desirable to residents in order to inform the selection committee about the type of candidate they should be recruiting."
One meeting, the letter says, is not adequate to address the concerns of residents and does not provide ample time to cover the issues.
"I am confident that we will get quite a bit of input from a single meeting," he told the organizations in an email.
In addition, the organizations have requested at least one community meeting be held after the selection of candidates has been narrowed down to the finalists to give residents an opportunity to question the finalists in a public forum.
Bobkiewicz said he is still considering that request.
"That's the typical talk we hear from the city all the time," says OPAL board member Alex Morgan. "Everyone is always willing to consider things, but we want a commitment. We applaud tonight's meeting as an initial step, but it does not give residents full buy-in throughout the process," he says.
"We deserve to have residents on the interview panels and the entire community deserves to meet the finalists. This isn’t a new approach. It has been done for police chiefs in Pittsburgh and Seattle. And, our city manager went through a similar process when he applied for the city manager job in Tacoma. What we’re asking for is pretty mainstream," Morgan says.
Finally, the organizations have asked that there be an African American person on the selection committee who "understands the bolder racial and historical analysis of the problems between the African American community and the institution of policing."
CNP's Betty Ester says, "There is a segment of the community that is most affected by police behavior and who has constantly expressed the feeling that their voices are not listened to and therefore they are not part of the decision-making process."
Bobkiewicz says there'll be an opportunity for community members to apply or be recommended to sit on a candidate-interview panel, but that information about the panel process hasn't been established yet.
"We'll probably have at least eight members on a community panel," to interview candidates he told me.
Individuals who wish to serve on the community panel can submit their names to Bobkiewicz.
I asked Bobkiewicz how the selection process for Evanston's new police chief process will work:
GovHR, a company that provides recruitment, consulting and interim staffing services for public and non-profit sectors, will recruit the applicants and do the initial screening of applicants to determine that they meet minimum requirements.
From these interviews, the panels will pick two or three candidates, but, says Bobkiewicz, the final interviews will be with him.