Evanston Now asked the mayoral candidates a series of questions about their experiences with police and the state of police-community relations. Here’s what they told us.
Mark Tendam, 61, says he’s only been stopped by police for a traffic violation or some other suspected offense once or twice and that “I was treated appropriately and there was no doubt that I was in violation of the law.”
Asked to compare the treatment of the public by police in Evanston to what happens in the typical American community, Tendam said conditions are “much better here.”
But he added, “That’s not to say we should be content.”
“What always makes Evanston a great city is our desire to make it even greater. Police incidents over the last year and a half have shown us when and where we need to make the most improvements.
“And in that same time we have contracted with professionals to work with our officers. Our community as a whole is taking a very hard look at race, race relationships and relationships between our police and residents of color — and that is a very positive step.”
Jeff Smith, 60, says he’s been stopped by police “nine or ten times.”
“I recall one officer being overly suspicious/gruff and another boasting about the “tools” he had on his “utility belt.”
But, “by and large, all businesslike as I recall.”
Smith said police treatment of citizens here is “much better” than the national average.
“By the numbers, police practices in Evanston result in lower than average use of force and complaints,” Smith said, adding that “public attitudes are in the main supportive.”
“Trust levels can always be higher, especially when specfic incidents get disproportionate attention. I am a strong believer in community policing, in less car time and more face time.”
“I oppose militarization of tactics or gear, and I support policies that seek to integrate officers within the community to reduce objectification in either direction. I also want to look at units/officers per call/stop, which seem to have increased in Evanston over time.”
Brian Miller, 37, says he’s been stopped by police “more than 10 times.”
“The vast majority of the time I was treated respectfully, but I have had incidents where I believe the police officer’s behavior was incorrect,” Miller says.
“In my younger days, I would ride my bike throughout the city. However, I was followed by police officers multiple times when I would ride my bike with friends who are African-American,” he added.
Miller declined to answer our question about whether police treat the public better or worse here than in the typical American community.
He said, “I believe that the treatment of Evanston’s African-American community by Evanston Police Officers needs substantial improvement. As Dr. Gilo Logan’s study concluded, ‘there is a profound mistrust of the Police Department in the African-American community.’
“Based upon official reports that I have reviewed as an alderman and anecdotal reports from members of our community, I believe that our officers need to do a better job de-escalating routine situations and avoid charging citizens for resisting arrest or disobeying the orders of an officer after routine stops.”
Steve Hagerty, 48, says he’s been stopped by police “three to five times.”
“In general, my interactions with the police have been positive. I can think of two incidents in my lifetime when they were disappointing and, in my opinion, disrespectful and overly aggressive.” Hagerty says. “In one instance, I spoke with the police chief and in the other instance, I wish I had.
“While I do not think the aggressive behavior exhibited in my two experiences is representative of all police officers – most Evanston police officers are dedicated professionals who are working hard and putting their lives on the line to protect our community, these two experiences remind me of how upset people can get – justifiably – when they are treated disrespectfully by law enforcement – or any other government agency that is supposed to protect, rather than harass, them.”
“Given the experiences of Lawrence Crosby and Devon Reid, I think improving police-community relations must be a top priority on the City’s agenda.”
Hagerty says he thinks the treatment of citizens by police here is about the same as in the typical American community.
“I believe we need to work hard to build trust between the police and the community and the community and the police. Steps we can take to do that include:
- continue to ensure we have a police force that is representative of our community,
- make sure officers – or any City employee for that matter – are held accountable when policies and procedures are not followed,
- make sure we are providing sufficient and on-going training to our officers, including de-escalation,
- reviewing, enhancing, and updating our civilian complaint process, and (5) refining our policies and procedures based on best practices and lessons learned.”
Gary Gaspard, 54, says he’s been stopped by police “more than ten times.”
“For over three decades I’ve been living in Evanston, I’ve only been stopped by the Evanston Police once,” Gaspard says.
“It was eight to ten years ago when I was stopped and ticketed for failing to wearing my seat-belt. With that said, I don’t have any personal experience of disrespect that I can elaborate about our law enforcement. Nevertheless, I hear complaints from a lot of residents regarding how they have not been treated pleasantly by the officer.”
Gaspard says that because of the complaints he’s been hearing from other citizens about how they’ve been mistreated by the police he’d only rate police treatment of citizens here about average compared to the typical American community.