Evanston’s Reimagining Public Safety Committee, tasked by Mayor Daniel Biss with coming up by September with police reform proposals that can be incorporated into the city’s 2022 budget, held its third of seven scheduled meetings Tuesday.
Panel members spend most of the session talking about how they might gather public input on as yet undefined reforms.
Member Patrick Keenan-Devlin, executive director of the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, suggested hiring young people to reach out to other young people and compensating the young people who would participate in focus groups or interviews.
Biss, who chairs the committee, added that “the city sometimes has fallen short in engaging expertise in the community that’s not on the city payroll.”
But Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) said, “Some people in the Black community are blue in the face from answering all these surveys.”
The Equity and Empowerment Commission sent staff out to ask questions in the community, Fleming said, and people said they’ve been asked questions for decades and feel “nothing’s happened since the 1950s or ’60s.”
The committee, Fleming suggested, “should look at what we already do know” rather than conducting “a whole new community engagement campaign.”
Deputy Police Chief Melissa Sacluti said the department regularly seeks community feedback at regular ward meetings held by alderpersons around the city.
But Biss said he was concerned that “ward meetings draw the same group of people back again and again.”
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said his subcommittee is looking at “what would we create” for a police department “if we were creating it from scratch today.”
He said he wanted to determine what parts of the criminal code the city can decide “to enforce or not enforce, adjudicate versus decriminalize.”
Committee member Andrew Papachristos, a sociology professor at Northwestern University, said his subcommittee is focusing on front-line violence prevention efforts — things like trauma response and violence interruption — and wants to “center the voices of survivors and victims.”
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20.