Three aldermen told Evanston’s new police chief Monday night that city residents expect more respectful treatment when they’re stopped by police.
And the chief, Demitrous Cook. pledged to conduct more reviews of body camera footage to spot instances where officers aren’t treating residents properly and take corrective action.
Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said during the Human Services Committee meeting that complaints she’s getting from residents recently “have all been about attitude and respect.”
She said it’s not so much the physical actions by officers, but “unnecessary sarcasm and disrespect” that are raising concerns.
Cook said, “That’s what’s great about body cameras. They paint a picture” of what was done and what was said.
He said he planned to increase random audits of body camera footage in which supervisors review a selection of videos looking for situations that weren’t handled appropriately.
“We can use those for traiining, to show officers what not to do,” Cook said.
Simmons said officers need to understand “how a black man might respond differently to certain forms of engagement from a police officer,” that officers need to be sensitive to cultural differences.
“We are all Americans,” Cook responded. “We all understand respect, and how we’re supposed to interact in personal communication with people.”
“That’s an ongoing issue in law enforcement.”
Cook added that instances of officers saying inappropriate things that are captured on video can also make it harder to get a conviction.
“All that video gets pushed out to the state’s attorney’s office,” he said, “and we don’t want to jeopardize a case based on personal attitudes that may be inappropriate.”
Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said they were concerned about comments by officers noted in some of the police complaint incidents that were before the committee for review, and the committee postponed a vote on those reports until after the members could look at videos of the incidents in executive session.
“We don’t have officers committing big crimes, but we do have citizens feeling disrespected” because of the tone or language that officers use.