Three Evanston aldermen apologized Wednesday night to the parents of a 13-year-old boy who was handcuffed last week by police who mistook him for a burglary suspect.

While Police Chief Richard Eddington said the department’s investigation of the Aug. 30 incident isn’t expected to be completed for up to two months, Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, Jane Grover and Delores Holmes offered their apologies at the City Council’s Human Services Committee meeting.

At the session, Ava Thompson Greenwell, a Northwestern University journalism professor who’s also studying for a PhD in the school’s African American studies department, said the officers’ actions toward her son Diwani, an honor-roll student at Chute Middle School “seemed like racial profiling.”

Police say they were looking for a black male in blue cargo shorts who had just committed a burglary in the 1600 block of Seward Street about 11:15 a.m. last Thursday when officers spotted Diwani riding his bike toward his home on Kirk Street, a few blocks away.

A few minutes after the youth was handcuffed, the burglary victim, driven to the scene by police, said Diwani was not the burglar and he was released.

Some accounts have said the suspect police were looking for was reported to be several inches taller than the 5-foot-6-inch 13-year-old.

Grover said, “I apologize. I’m sorry for what happened to your son.”

“I want to thank you for requesting an investigation,” Grover added, urging the parents to return to the committee for a discussion of the case after the police department and two citizen advisory panels have completed their review of the incident.

Several other residents at the meeting spoke of incidents they, or family members, had been involved in, some dating back several years, that persuaded them that police were discriminatory in their treatment of black residents of the city.

Braithwaite, in reply, said it’s difficult “to not be emotional when you hear stories like this, particulary as a parent with two black boys.”

“It’s important that you understand that we hear what you’re saying,” he added.

An apology, “may seem like empty words,” Braithwaite added, “but for all of us who sit up here, we’re all concerned.”

Braithwaite encouraged the parents to meet with the police chief along with their son “to start the healing process.”

He also encouraged all those who had raised issues about police conduct to participate in a city-sponsored dialogue on race at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25, in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center.

Holmes said the city has been working to improve race relations for a long time and, “we’ve made some progress, but there’s a long way to go.”

“The issue of officers not knowing our kids, and not knowing our community is a big part of it,” Holmes said. “Some of it has to do with whether they live here or not, and there’s a dialogue back and forth about that.”

She said the chief has been very sensitive to such issues, “And since he’s been here I know that there have been some changes within the department.”

“So we’ll continue to work on it, and certainly want to make sure that all of our children in this community are safe.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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14 Comments

  1. Racism?

    EPD cannot be the real police in Evanston because of things like this. Sounds to me like officers did everything by the book – but then of course it becomes an issue of race. I could see if the cops roughed up the young man, but he was only detained and then released once it was determined that he was the wrong kid. Maybe crime would go down in Evanston if its citizens and aldermen allowed the police to be the police.

  2. Aldermen should apologize to burglary victims

    I'm sorry but did Jane Grover, Holmes and Braitwaite apologize to the burglary victim? Ever had your home or car burglarized? It's not a good feeling.

    I know of two Evanston families asleep upstairs when burglars broke into their home. In both cases, the burglars found the car keys and stole the cars and house keys. Why just the other day police arrested two teens who coerced 10-year-olds to commit burglaries in Evanston.

    Police quickly responded on suspect info. Rather than telling her son that police were just doing their job looking for the bad guy and that he simply matched the suspect description she turns this into premature accusations of racial profiling.

    Question – if the suspect is described as black with cargo pants what's wrong with police stopping someone in the area who fits the description and have a witness come over to ID the suspect? Do you think Greenwell's son would have been stopped by police if the suspect description was a white male wearing cargo pants?

    It's sad that a Northwestern journalism professor with 19 years of experience is making these inflammatory allegations without all the facts. As a parent I can understand Greenwell getting upset when her son was handcuffed but police probably didn't want him to bolt, something that does happen on ocassion. The police apologized to her son after releasing him. How many apologies does Greenwell want? Knowing the available facts, I wouldn't be pleased if my son were handcuffed but I would understand and accept the bigger picture that police were responding to a fresh crime with suspect description.

    It seems to me that Greenwell is trying to make the case that racial profiling  – randomly stopping people of a certain race without any cause – is prevalent in Evanston. That is a dangerous case to make because next thing you know cops will ignore their gut instincts or become hesitant investigating incidents in order to stay in good standing with their superiors. It is these kinds of things that thwart quick police reaction and emboldens the bad guys.

    Does Ms. Greenwell plan to contact Jesse Jackson or maybe Obama? Perhaps Obama can come down to Evanston and hold another beer summit after falsely accusing a good cop in a nationally televised speech of racial profiling.

    While aldermen are apologizing to Greenwell and her son what are they doing about crime in Evanston, especially in the 60202 zip code where Greenwell lives? If aldermen are feeling apologetic then they should apologize to all burglary victims in Evanston.

    Police should be able to do their job without constant accusations of racial profiling. Any of the cops that stopped Greenwell's son black? Just wondering. I like to get all the facts, ya know.

    There is one person who really does owe a big apology.

    The burglar!!!

     

    1. Handcuffing

      "If the suspect is described as black with cargo pants what's wrong with police stopping someone in the area who fits the description and have a witness come over to ID the suspect?"

      Nothing wrong with stopping and questioning him. There's A LOT wrong with handcuffing him. Can police in any city simply handcuff someone for any reason, even because they think the person may bolt? I hope not.

      "Do you think Greenwell's son would have been stopped by police if the suspect description was a white male wearing cargo pants?"

      Nope, no chance. (I'm white, and I live very close to where the burglary happened. I see police cars check out black men as they walk down the street ALL THE TIME. I don't observe similar treatment toward young White men.)

      1. Handcuffing

        Federal law allows police to handcuff people for reasonable periods of time. It is called a "Terry" stop. The Supreme Court even went further to discuss handcuffing – 

        US v. Neff, 300 F.3d 1217 (10th Cir. 2002)-… a Terry stop does not become unreasonable just because police officers use handcuffs on a subject or place him on the ground. See Perdue, 8 F.3d at 1463. Further, the "use of guns in connection with a stop is permissible where the police reasonably believe the weapons are necessary for their protection." "Since police officers should not be required to take unnecessary risks in performing their duties, they are `authorized to take such steps as [are] reasonably necessary to protect their personal safety and to maintain the status quo during the course of [a Terry] stop.'" Id. (quoting United States v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 235, 105 S.Ct. 675, 83 L.Ed.2d 604 (1985)).

        A bit of research goes a long way!

  3. Blow out of proportion

    Are you kidding… he was not mistaken for a suspect. He matched the description and was detained accordingly.  If he saw the police cars following him why didn't he stop? 

    How is it "racial profiling" to stop a male black in cargo shorts, when the description put out was for a male black in cargo shorts? If the description was for a male white in cargo shorts and they had stopped Diwani that would be different? Nobody was hurt. Diwani was released when the victim said that he was not the person who committed the crime. The police did their job.

    They are only teaching Diwani and others who are paying attention that if you cry profiling or discrimination you will get your way. Being black should not be a crutch nor it should not be a tool to get over on others or ahead in life — but they are making it one.

    I taught my son that black is a skin color and it does not change who he is. That being respectful of everybody is the way to behave. He has never used it as an advantage or a way to get over or a way to get out of things. What a horrible lesson to teach the kids of today; no matter what race they are.

    1. Let’s define the problem.

      Stopping a "black male in cargo shorts" becomes profiling when so many black males fit such a basic description.

      It's like saying that a robber was a white male in jeans – the police aren't going to stop every white male wearing jeans in a 5 block radius… because that would be a majority of white men. At some point, you have to look at the situtation and say, okay, he was stopped because he fit the description, yes, but the description essentially boils down to "black" with none of the other descriptors having enough weight to pare down who is being stopped and who is not being stopped.

      (There's also the reality that law enforcement perceives people of color as more likely to be criminals than whites. It's why people of color are more likely to be stopped, even when the crime being investigated is committed equally by whites and non whites.)

      There was mention of height in the article, with a note that the child definitely didn't match the height given by the victim. I didn't see any mention of weight, hair style, clothing color, mode of transportation, etc. So it sounds like either the basic description provided was severely lacking and that the police were essentially looking for any black male, or that despite having a more complete description, the police disregarded it and were essentially looking for any black male.

      And that… that is profiling.

      1. Not profiling

        As a retired police officer it sounds to me that the officers involved were following standard protocol. If this is profiling, then every little problem you solve in your mind would be defined as profiling. They just, as any good officer would do, followed the data given to them.

        An officer has a choice of how to deal with a suspect. I don't know this by the released information but I suspect that young boy reacted in a suspicious manner.

        I hope that an officer doing his job will not be punished for what has become a political issue.

      2. Description

        From what I read, the description was provided by the women who had just been attacked IN HER HOUSE. How rational would you be if you confronted someone in your house and then they attacked you? The police have a citizens police academy. How many of you monday-morning quarterbacks have attended? Sign up and go see, I did …. You get a very different perspective on these issues than what we see on TV. At least you would have an informed position to your comments. 

  4. EPD

    I've lived in Evanston nearly my entire life and found it very disappointing that my 15 year old son was also stopped by EPD the same day FOR BEING BLACK. He was riding his bike home after staying the night at  a friends house in Skokie when 6 squad cars surronded him and jumped out of their vehicles and asked him to get off of his bike.

    One of the officers had a taser gun in hand while they searched and questioned him. He was told that they were looking for a black teen wearing a snap back(baseball cap). He had just called to let me know he would be riding the bike path on McCormick down to Oakton street and would call when he arrived home in south Evanston.

    I was pissed when he called 10-15 minutes later angry with a trembling voice to tell me he had been JACKED by EPD for no reason! My child has attended ETHS for math since the 7th grade and has been on the high honor roll every year.

    He had been working 7 days a week at his first job for the city of Evanston, only to be harrased on his only day off.  I think it's sad that my child rides his bike all the way to skokie where all of his friends live and are mostly white and never has any problems with Skokie police but as soon as he gets back to Evanston there is ALWAYS a problem.

    He is not a thug and does not hang in the streets, I'm sure he's actually smarter than most of the officers that stopped him. He asked that I leave the situation alone because it took all of me not to leave work and head down to the police station. I understand everyone has a job to do, but there has to be a different way to go about things.

    1. Stopped for being black?

      Was your child stopped for the sole fact that he was black, or could it have been that he was in the area of the crime and fit a general description? If it was only that he was black, I would like to hear from more blacks that were stopped that day. By your logic, the police would have stopped black people up on Central St., downtown, on Howard St. 

      I would also like to hear your plans for dealing with the situation. By your post, you are obviously an expert on police procedures. I'm sure you and your highly intelligent son, would be an asset to the department. Maybe they will give you both an application and you can put your expertise to use!

  5. Alderpersons must be getting ready to run again?

    It is my thought that these three elected officals should have stayed out of the incident until an investigation had been completed.   From my AFRICAN AMERICAN VIEWPOINT, the Evanston Police Department does not have a profile or public style of mistreating individuals.

     

    It may well be time for new evolving African American leadership in Evanston.

     

    John Barfield

  6. Evanston Police treating a 13 year old like a criminal.

    When your 13 year old son is handcuffed and treated like a criminal I invite you to act as if it's no big deal. We all want police to serve and protect, key word-Appropriately. It's all about the how. I have a 13 year old son and I am completely appalled by how the police handled this situation and equally appalled by many of the comments in this thread.

    1. Evanston Police treating a 13 year old like a criminal.

      Could you please explain how the police are supposed to know which teens are criminals and which ones aren't? I await your reply – you should then patent that idea as police agencies around the world will want this knowledge. Can you also detail how thirteen year olds are unable to kill police officers. I'm sure the police are unaware of this too. 

  7. More apologies

    When the internal EPD investigation is done and the officers are found to have done nothing wrong, I hope the alderman will apologize to them and thank them for doing a dangerous job that clearly everyone else thinks they can do better.

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