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.”