Mayor Daniel Biss says a new Evanston police chief might end up supervising workers with responsibilities beyond what’s now seen as the role of police.

Speaking to the second meeting of his Reimagining Public Safety Committee Tuesday afternoon, a day after Police Chief Demitrous Cook announced his retirement, Biss said the city needs to decide what infrastructure it should build to provide for safety and how that infrastructure should be constructed inside the city bureaucracy.

“As it stands now,” Biss added, the Police Department has a staff of 140 to 150 individuals with a particular set of powers.

But there’s also the Youth and Young Adult Division within the Health and Human Services Department that has a crime prevention role.

In addition the city’s Alternative Emergency Response subcommittee has been developing plans for crisis teams that would respond to mental health emergencies. And there’s been discussion of whether that service should be housed within the Fire Department or some other city unit.

There are questions about how to best build an organization to solve a problem, the mayor said.

The trend in Evanston over the past few decades has been to reduce the number of city departments — in part as an economy measure to reduce the number of employees earning department head salaries.

Although Biss didn’t mention it, some communities have decided to combine police and fire functions under a single public safety department.

Biss asked the 17 members of the committee to give him feedback over the next few days about which two or three of a list of six topics the committee should initially divide itself into working groups to tackle.

Those topics include traffic and pedestrian enforcement, police time devoted to different responsibilities, the ideal organizational structure for the department, violence prevention strategies, school resource officers and use of force policies.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.