Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington Thursday said he’s extremely proud of the work officers did in a burglary investigation nearly three years ago that led to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of an officer’s action in detaining a 13-year-old youth as a suspect.
The chief’s remarks at a news conference followed a federal appeals court decision issued last week affirming the trial court’s dismissal of the suit on a motion for summary judgment.
The suit stemmed from an incident on Aug. 30, 2012, when a woman came home to discover a burglar in her house in the 1600 block of Seward Street. After he fled, the woman called police, describing the burglar as a “young boy, African American, [wearing] cargo kahki shorts, dark brown T-shirt or [a] dark shirt.”
Within minutes, officer Mark Buell spotted 13-year-old Diwani Greenwell, an honor student at Chute Middle School, riding his bike a few blocks away from the crime scene and, as the youth arrived at his home, the officer placed him in handcuffs.
Diwani’s parents, Dale Greenwell and Ava Thompson Greenwell at Human Services Committee meeting in 2012.
Diwani’s monther, Ava Thompson Greenwell, saw her son in handcuffs and confronted police. Diwani was released from custody shortly thereafter, after the burglary victim, brought to the scene by police, said he wasn’t the person who’d broken into her home.
A week later Greenwell, a journalism professor at Northwestern University, spoke at a Human Services Committee meeting saying she believed her son had been racially profiled by police, and three aldermen apologized to her for the incident.
Eddington said Thursday that given that a crime was in progress and police had a description from the victim of the burglar, a claim of profiling “goes out the window.”
“When people discuss profiling it becomes a label that is misapplied in many circumstances,” Eddington said.
“If it was four weeks down the road, with no other burglaries, and we’re still stopping 14-year-old kids on bikes, we’re out of bounds. But in the here-and-now of a crime in progress, the profiling issue is moot,”
Two days after the Human Services Committee meeting, police released recordings of police radio traffic during the incident.
The Greenwell’s filed suit against the city and officer Buell later that month.
In November 2012, following an internal investigation that cleared the officer of wrongdoing, police presented an extensive report on the incident with video from squad car cameras to the Human Services Committee, and that month the Greenwell’s attorney dropped the city as a defendant in the suit while continuing the case against Buell.
A federal court judge dismissed the case on Buell’s motion for summary judgment in Feb. 2014.
Last month police charged another man with the burglary after a fingerprint found at the crime scene was matched to him.