Brooke Murphy Roothaan left little doubt about what’s troubling her in Evanston.

“Arson, murder, nooses, cars on fire on my block,” and other disturbing crimes were what the 1st Ward resident told Evanston Now a new police chief needs to address.

The first of three public input sessions on what Evanston wants in its next chief was held Wednesday evening at the Robert Crown Center.

Public input session at Robert Crown Center.

While attendance was not huge … only about 25 people were on hand … Mayor Daniel Biss said city officials “have to demonstrate the sincerity of our listening.”

Evanston is on its second interim chief since Demitrious Cook retired a year ago.

Participants discussed issues such as a police chief’s characteristics, public safety philosophy and the biggest challenge the new head of Evanston’s department will face.

9th Ward resident Kathy Hayes said “our community needs commitment from our leadership from top to bottom, to direct our city into a more productive place.”

Hayes said Evanston has seen “more incidents of crime and loss” lately, but also indicated the city cannot simply lock people up and expect socio-economic problems to go away.

“We have to learn to promote healthy dialogue between parts of the community,” she added.

Oliver Ruff, of the 8th Ward, said “we need a person who exudes the type of leadership necessary to change the community,” and someone who also has “high expectations” of the police force.

There will be two other public input sessions on May 24, to get views from Black and Hispanic residents. Time and location will be announced.

Those sessions, as well as the first one, will be facilitated by two consultants from an organization called “Envisioning Equity.”

Mayor Biss also said that city leaders have been talking with rank-and-file police officers, another key constituency in bringing in the next chief.

There is also an online survey for those unable to attend any of the meetings.

Whether it’s in person or on line, the mayor is hoping for as much public input as possible for this “important conversation for the future of our city.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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