Evanston police officers, speaking at a community forum Tuesday evening said the fact that most of them don’t live in Evanston doesn’t mean they don’t care about the community.

In response to a question about whether the city should require officers to live in town, Officer Tanya Jenkins said she spends a lot of time volunteering in Evanston, though she doesn’t live here. “The only place I volunteer is in Evanston,” Jenkins added.

Cmdr. Mel Collier said that though he doesn’t live in Evanston, he’s been a member of the First Church of God on Simpson Street for more than a quarter century.

Cmdr. Mel Collier.

It’s difficult for police to afford to live in Evanston, Collier told the roughly 40 residents gathered in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center for the meeting, and only about five of the 160 officers on the force do live in town.

In addition, Collier added, it can be awkward for officers and their family members to live so close that they may run into people they’ve arrested in the grocery store.

Deputy Chief Aretha Barnes said family issues also make it difficult for officers to relocate. “My kids go to school on the south side,” Barnes said, “My spouse works in downtown Chicago.”

Jenkins added that officers are involved in numerous community outreach programs — especially with young people.

Cmdr. Brian Henry said he grew up in Waukegan where police used to be required to live in the city.

Cmdr. Brian Henry.

“They got rid of that mandate, because they were having too many problems. The officers all congregated, buying homes in one neighborhood, and were spending time at home instead of being out policing the streets,” Henry said.

Henry said that with a wife who works in Wisconsin, the commute would be extremely difficult for her if he had to live in Evanston.

Asked whether police believe that Evanston residents are supportive of the police, all the panel members — command officers and members of the problem solving team — said they do.

But they conceded that attitudes among patrol officers may differ.

Jenkins said patrol officers may have the impression that they are not backed by the community, but once officers are assigned to different units within the department “they have the opportunity to see that the community does have your back.”

Henry said, “It depends on what shift you’re on. I spent some time on midnights. You’re not getting a lot of sleep. And you’re having a lot of unpleasant interactions with people — domestic violence calls and other problems.”

“It’s much different than on day shift. When I went on days my perception changed. Going to block parties and other events, your interactions are so much more positive.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Most Police Officers don’t live here..,,,

    I grew up here and many, many Evanston Police Officer’s lived here, had gone to school here therefore knowing many people. I know it’s expensive to live here and acknowledge members of the family may work further distances. Other than that what’s the reason it feels from some that they look their nose down at those of us that live here….,

    1. The Issue Isn’t Whether City Employees Live In Evanston
      The issue shouldn’t be about whether city employees live in Evanston city limits, but rather whether the employees are well qualified to do the job they’re hired for.

    2. Police just don’t like to

      Police just don’t like to live in the same place they work. I don’t work in Evanston but where I do and have worked it is the same. The officers in Chicago don’t want to have to live there, as big as it is, and they have options in some neighborhoods that remain nice. My kid has had a classmate the last two years whose mother I arrested maybe 3 years ago. I’ve seen at least one other person I arrested at the school. I’ve gotten stared down in the grocery store lot and watched as I entered my car and exited the lot by a heroin addict I’ve arrested. I’ve had co-workers with their front windows busted at home, car windows busted, tires slashed, squad car “fire bombed”…I’ve seen an officer have his car spit on and hit with rocks and he didn’t even work within 25 miles of his neighborhood, just because of his job. You can’t even enjoy the simple places in town the same way when the landmarks there correlate with people you have arrested, fought or there are problem people near. You don’t want to be with your family when you see loud, obnoxious or possibly criminal behavior nearby. Imagine being with your family and not only do you see it but you know the individuals by first name and some of them don’t like you or blame you for going to jail, towing their car, “messing up” their life…that’s every day at work. Nobody wants to live like that while they are off. I always wanted to live where I currently work and now the desire is completely gone. It has nothing to do with how nice you think of your town. Police are called for everything that is wrong with and in your town so in many cases we have a more specific and detailed view of a block or a home etc. I’ll never forget stopping a man as an robbery suspect and despite him being cooperative he was more incensed that we’d believe he was a robbery suspect and on his block where he has lived and never seen anything happen in 20 years. I had only worked there maybe a year and a half and I knew for a fact he was wrong because I had guarded the crime scene of a stabbing no more than 3-4 doors down from him. He doesn’t recall it. Maybe he never knew about it. I was there. We’re not the same type of residents.

  2. Look at the numbers

    While it is true that Evanston is a more expensive community to live in, let’s look at the numbers.

    The claim that members of the police force (who i admire greatly and appreciate their hard work) don’t live in Evanston based on its cost should be put into context. Total payroll for EPD is $14,694,679 (not including benefits) or about $90,000 on average for its 158 active members – Page 8 : https://www.cityofevanston.org/home/showdocument?id=1580

    The median household income in Evanston is about $70,000


    I appreciate the concern expressed by some police officers about living in the same community as they work when they may see or interact with residents who they’ve had to arrest, but the economic argument doesn’t appear to be supported by the numbers. Officers early in their careers may not be as able to afford to live in Evanston and maybe the City of Evanston could or should subsidize their housing costs to encourage more police officers to live in Evanston.

    I’m not in favor of mandates, and requiring people to live in Evanston as a condition of employment.

  3. The city paid a loan in six

    The city paid a loan in six figures to subsidize Wally’s living in Evanston.  What about a citywide program to enable city employees to live here.  If they lived here, they’d spend more of their pay here.

    1. Loan? Really?

      Wally, of all people did not need any loan.  Shame on the city for that baloney!  He’s been working all his life, in ful-time positions.  He certainly did not need any money, or sympathy, about having to be coaxed to move here.  That was a total waste of city money (they do it all the time).   HE should be embarrassed that that even happened.

  4. I’d never question the police

    I’d never question the police officers’ commitment to caring about Evanston.  The point for living here is that all of them would spend some portion of their salaries here.  Total up the cost of the police department, and estimate what 10% of that spent here would mean for the city.

    1. On the other hand …

      since so many people don’t want to see any new construction in town, if police officers moved here they’d be displacing other residents, forcing them to leave the city and driving up property values making Evanston less affordable.

      Or so the argument might go …

      — Bill

    2. If that were the point the
      If that were the point the discussion would be all employees living in town.

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