Eight months after it was formed, the Reimaging Public Safety Committee headed by Mayor Daniel Biss has yet to develop a model for reorganizing how Evanston delivers those services.
The committee Tuesday heard a second presentation from representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union about a public safety reorganization plan the group is helping implement in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
Paige Fernandez of the ACLU said Brooklyn Center has made some progress toward implementing its plan for a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention since she last spoke to the Evanston group in September.
But the Evanston panel does not appear to be any closer to a restructuring decision.
Naming a new city manager is likely just days away, and a top priority for the new manager is sure to be naming a new police chief to replace retired former chief Richard Eddington who returned to the position on an interim basis this month.
That would seem to make a decision about whether to follow Brooklyn Center’s model of consolidating the police and fire department under a single new public safety department one Evanston needs to make in the very near future.
Will a new police chief actually head a department and report directly to the city manager? Or will the position be subservient to another department head, with the police chief, in Evanston’s organizational parlance, a division manager rather than a department head?
In the meantime, state legislation has seen some of the mental health crisis role envisioned as a city department under the Brooklyn Center model contracted out to a private mental health agency, and the city is moving toward contracting with other private agencies to provide a “living room” for persons experiencing mental health emergencies.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th), who heads the reimaging panel’s task force on organizational structure, on Tuesday said, “I don’t think we’re ready to copy and paste what they’re doing” in Brooklyn Center, “but we can partner with and learn from them.”
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) called it “a really interesting model for us to follow” and that he’s “excited about continuing the work to bring forward a proposal that works in Evanston.”
Sarah Bogan of Evanston Fight for Black Lives said the city needs a plan, “something tangible rather than continuing to try to ask people for ‘input.'”
The committee, she said, needs to “have something tangible soon to give people” that they can react to.