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Compromise reached on police review panel

Evanston’s police chief and a group of community residents have reached agreement on plans for a new Citizens Police Advisory Commitee to review complaints of police misconduct.

The proposal won unanimous support from aldermen on the Human Services Committee Monday.

Bennett Johnson of 708 Washington St., one of the half-dozen residents who met with the chief to develop the proposal, said the residents hope to ultimately establish a panel with the power to directly investigate complaints against police officers, but believe that the advisory committee is at least a good interim step.

"The chief is a good man. He wants to do something fine," Johnson said, but given resistance from the police unions to a more active role for civilians in investigating complaints, the residents agreed that the committee was a good step for now.

"With this we can find out what works. We can at least get in the store," Bennett said, "and then we can figure out how to make a cake that works."

Under the plan as approved by the aldermen, the citizens advisory committee would include one resident from each ward appointed by the Human Services Committee.

The panel would review the results of all complaint investigations by the police chief before those results are forwarded to the aldermanic committee.

In addition the chief has agreed that starting this month all complaints — both formal and informal — will be reported to the Human Services Committee. Previously informal complaints were handled within the police department and not reported to the aldermen.

The chief also agreed to notify the advisory committee of all complaints received, before reports are prepared.

Police Chief Richard Eddington said that, unlike the group of residents, he believes the advisory committee could be a permanent solution to the issue of addressing community concerns about police conduct.

He said a fully-empowered citizens’ review board would be costly in a time of budgetary constraints and would raise difficult issues that would have to be negotiated with the police unions.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he didn’t want the citizens group to come in every month seeking modifications, but that the aldermen might review the panel’s performance after a year.

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