Aldermen on Evanston’s Human Services Committee urged staff this evening to prepare plans to sharply restrict access to police arrest reports.

Led by Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, the four aldermen present for the meeting called for development of a plan that would completely eliminate access to arrest reports on the city’s website.

Fleming also suggested that she would prefer eliminating distribution by email of the Daily Crime Bulletin — a service to which more than 5,000 residents currently subscribe. But she indicated she wasn’t sure other committee members were prepared to go that far.

“People get arrested all the time and wish they hadn’t, and I just don’t see the purpose of putting it online,” Fleming said.

The state’s Freedom of Information Act requires that police furnish “as soon as practical” information that identifies individuals arrested and the charges against them. A binding 2011 ruling from the state attorney general says that law supercedes other state statutes that might otherwise restrict such disclosure.

But the FOIA law doesn’t specifically address how widely such information must be disclosed beyond to any person requesting it.

Evanston, as part of its government transparency policy, has posted the Daily Crime Bulletin on its website for more than a decade and maintained an online archive of those bulletins going back three years until recently, after Fleming first complained about the practice.

Currently the the archive has been reduced to include only bulletins from this year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. It’s called shaming and it works

    this alderman, again and again, seems to be more on the side of the criminals than the law abiding Evanstonians. I couldn’t believe Alderman Fleming said “People get arrested all the time and wish they hadn’t”.  Well maybe they should wish a little harder before victimizing the rest of us that are just trying to live in a safe community. If you don’t want your name published, have the self control to NOT COMMIT CRIMES!  As a law abiding member of this community, and a recipient of the daily crime bulletin, I want to know what crimes are committed in town, where, and who gets arrested for them. The state agrees, so what’s the issue.  I want to know if my neighbor is a burglar, or shoots people. I want to know if my kid’s friend, whose house my kid plays at, has household members who get arrested and why they get arrested. 

    It sounds like Alderman Fleming needs some competition in the next election. Someone who is not so sympathetic to criminals.  I’m a registered Democrat, but c’mon, this is getting ridiculous, and this alderman is a repeat offender of this nonsense.

    1. Ald. Fleming got triggered
      Did anyone ask Ald. Fleming which specific arrest(s) moved her to make this proposal?

      1. Family
        Any guesses or bets on whether it’s a family member, cousin, or future family of Fleming’s that came under police scrutiny? Typical political playbook: Act in favor of the people until something affects you directly, then start working against the people under the guise of “privacy” and “safety.”

    2. I don’t think there’s any
      I don’t think there’s any evidence that shaming works. Many crimes are not well thought out acts, where someone is thinking, “I probably shouldn’t because it’ll appear on an Evanston website.” They’re acts of passion / short term emotion and / or the result of a lifetime of unique factors that led to someone making the wrong choice. The public’s right to know is valid up to a point, and should be considered alongside disclosure as additional unnecessary burden / punishment on top of jail time, a fine, etc.

      Sex offenders aside, there are more general crime statistics that will tell you if you live in a safe area or not. Those are much better indicators than an unqualified individual cobbling together a narrative based on reports they read.

      Though they have committed crimes, they are Evanston citizens as well. It is not us vs. them. It is us. Our focus should be on how best to keep our community safe and how best to work with each other to reduce crime, not to shame and punish because we think we should be rewarded or separated from those who have made mistakes.

      1. Not all arrested in Evanston
        Not all arrested in Evanston are citizens of Evanston. And the email report is an excellent source on how to be safe (not being a victim) as it details the entry point of crimes. I

    3. I know more than one wealthy

      I know more than one wealthy white person who would support not publishing this info. If the information can be FOIA’d then I don’t see the problem in keeping this from prurients.

      1. What does race have to do with this?
        Wealthy white person?

        What does race and class have to do with this issue? Racism rears its ugly head again in Evanston.

        1. Racism in Evanston…..always the excuse/reason……..

          It’s not called “racism” when it’s geared towards white people. Don’t forget that white people need to learn about their “whiteness” at seminars and “check their white privilege” every second of every day in this town. Thanks Anonymous Al for bringing up RACE……….you have proven my point.

    4. It’s not about shaming

      It’s not about shaming–it’s about citizens having the right to know who has broken the law. ALL citizens play a role in creating, upholding, and enforcing the law–whether directly or via elected or appointed officials. The only motive I can think of behind Ms. Fleming’s push is that she has observed that many of the crimes committed are by African-American men. But keeping that a secret or pretending it’s not the case does more to hurt the population she’s trying to shield than to help them.

      1. Arrest doesn’t equal guilt

        Do people not understand that being arrested desn’t mean you’re guilty.?? Your comment that citizens have the right to know who has broken the law may be true, but publishing arrest reports doesn’t accomplish that. 

        1. Arrests

          Hi Harriet,

          Under the law the public also has a right to know who’s been charged with crimes.

          That serves multiple purposes.

          It prevents the government from secretly “disappearing” people into jail.

          It lets people know what the police have been up to.

          And it also gives people the opportunity to find out whether a neighbor or co-worker or potential romantic partner has been charged with a crime in the past.

          While being charge absolutely is not equivalent to being found guilty, I think many people would want to know whether, for example, a new romantic partner has ever been charged with domestic violence. Whether that leads just to a conversation about what happened or to breaking off the relationship should be the decision of the person who learns of the arrest.

          — Bill

          1. Arrest versus guilt

            Bill- My comment was a reply to Jennifer F who wrote “people have a right to know who has broken the law”. I stand by my comment that arrest records don’t tell us that. Period. If one wants to make an argument that there is a benefit to knowing who is accused of a crime, that’s fine – my point is that she conflated arrest with guilt and that’s a dangerous assumption to make.

          2. Agree

            Hi Harriet,

            Absolutely! It’s a continuum.

            Some percentage of people who are arrested are guilty. Some higher percentage, we hope, of those who have been convicted are guilty. But it’s never 100 percent.

            And some percentage of those who are acquitted are also guilty, but the state failed to prove the case.

            And some percentage of people have reformed their lives since the events that got them into trouble. Others have not.

            Our knowledge of others is always imperfect.

            — Bill

          3. “It prevents the government

            “It prevents the government from secretly “disappearing” people into jail.”

            It’s not as if there was an epidemc of arrestees disappearing prior to the internet publication of arrests. The real problem with posting arrests on line is this: People do get arrested without being convicted of crimes, yet once the informatioin is posted online, it can remain there for years. Search John Smith and an arrest may turn up, but not the dropped charges after investigation or even an acquittal. Even when an arrest record is expunged because of a dismissed charge or acquittal, the arrest may continue to appear on line, thus defeating the purpose of expungement, which is first and foremost a protection of the wrongly arrested from years of social and employment consequences. It is this threat that makes these online records so insidious and the stuff of mugshot website extortiionists.

  2. Arrest reports

    According to the City’s website, Arrest Reports are only available to victims and otherwise require a subpoena. What information are you suggesting is currently publicly available on the website other than the daily crime bulletin and the list of arrests? I don’t think the list of arrests is the same as the arrest report, which would contain more detailed information. See

    1. Reports

      Hi JL,

      Please read page three of the attorney general’s public access opinion linked in the story for the definition of the arrest report that this story is discussing. Here, again, is the link.

      This is not the same as the more detailed arrest report police also maintain that is only disclosed under more limited circumstances and with various redactions.

      — Bill

  3. No!

    Alderman Fleming – allowing the government to secretly arrest people is life under a dictator.   This is a horrible idea, you need to rethink your position.  Can you imagine allowing Trump to arrest people and hide the reason why?  Your office needs some calls on this topic and you need to support democratic principles in your role for our city. 

    1. TRUMP lives in your head!!

      Comparing TRUMP to a DICTATOR is utterly ridiculous. If ANYTHING goes wrong in your life you immediately think it’s becuase of Trump. Evanston liberals are insane. 

  4. Vote da bums out!!!
    Who are the other aldermen along with Fleming who want to “sharply restrict access to police arrest reports?” And what are their reasons for not putting the crime bulletin and arrest reports online? Because “people get arrested all the time and wish they hadn’t?” I’ve lived in Evanston a long time and have never been arrested. Neither have any of my neighbors or anyone I know. MOST OF US HAVE NOT BEEN ARRESTED!!!!

    Their arrogance is unacceptable.

    The public has the right to know about crime happening in their neighborhood. But once again our tax and spend big government aldermen, WHO WORK FOR US, know better and want to keep arrest reports and the daily crime bulletin away from the eyes of hardworking and law abiding taxpaying citizens.

    This is the PERFECT reason to vote out Cicely Fleming and the other aldermen who don’t want us to have access to the arrest reports and crime bulletin.

    This makes me and my family red hot angry. Go to the council meetings and let them have a peace of your mind. Otherwise, the Council will make it much harder to know about crime happening in your neighborhood or on your block.

    Run for City Council and vote da bums OUT!!!

  5. More evidence

    This is more evidence that, at least some members of the city government, live in a different world where ‘real crime’ does not exist, the accused must have been victims of everyone else and only law abiding citizens need to be watched. As was said to Cliff Clavin on ‘Cheers,’ “What color is the sky in your world?”

    1. Crime Reports
      I agree with the commentary. Who would NOT want to know about crime happening where they live? That would be like living under a rock. I also agree that somewhere, someone, at some time in Ms. Fleming’s family or circle of friends got arrested…..I can’t think of any other logical reason to not want to be aware of the people around you…. this sounds personal

    2. Arrest Records from Neighboring Communities

      The info that is shared via the EPD/City regarding arrests is much more limited than what is done in our neighboring communites. Take a look at the Skokie web site as they post the mug shots and additional information. We should be asking for more info- NOT less!

      1. SKOKIE website- that is exactly what we need in Evanston

        Wow! Thank you for posting the website. Did you see all of the offenders arrested that had no driver’s license? Scary. It’s pretty simple…..don’t commit a crime and your name won’t appear on the Daily Bulletin. I read the bulletin every day to see how many bikes are stolen in addition to where the last armed robbery took place, shots fired, car thefts. You need to be aware of the crime that happens in your community so you can keep your family safe. It still amazes me how many people don’t lock their cars and expect their items to be there the next morning. Insane to think this Alderwoman wants to take this information away from the citizens of Evanston. Vote her out!

      2. Public Inforamtion
        Did you ever look at Skokie Patch Reports? They not only list the names of the people arrested, they give out their full addresses as well. Again…don’t plan on doing something illegal or unlawful if you don’t want to possibly get caught and have your info put in a news publication. That’s part of the process.
        …….and publications always state that an arrest does not mean a conviction.

  6. arrest reports

    This is crazy. You don’t want to be reported? Don’t commit a crime!

    1. Whoa!
      Sorry, but what happend to “innocent until proven guilty”? There is an assumption of innocence under law, not an assumption of guilt. What if you are arrested and then absolved of all guilt. Is it still ok that your name was published anyway? An arrest is not a conviction.

      From the Cornell law site:

      “Presumption of Innocence – One of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system, holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged.”

  7. Arrest Reports
    I think it is a good idea to limit access to arrest reports. Every arrest does not result in a conviction. When information about an arrest is published, the inclination might be to assume the individual (s) are guilty. This assumption may be hurtful to those arrested then exculpated. Publishing arrest information does not appear to have a benefit outweighing the possible harm it can do.

    1. Following your logic

      Hi Sara,

      You’re advocating the suppression of truthful information because some people may misinterpret it.

      Following that logic, any truthful information that any person might draw false negative conclusions from should be suppressed.

      So, among other things, no negative product reviews would be allowed and no negative reports on political candidates, because people might overgeneralize from them to conclude they were “bad” products or “bad” people.

      — Bill

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