Mayoral candidates on police practices

A traffic enforcement effort on Saturday (EPD photo)

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

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

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

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

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:

  1. continue to ensure we have a police force that is representative of our community,
  2.  make sure officers – or any City employee for that matter – are held accountable when policies and procedures are not followed,
  3. make sure we are providing sufficient and on-going training to our officers, including de-escalation,
  4. reviewing, enhancing, and updating our civilian complaint process, and (5) refining our policies and procedures based on best practices and lessons learned."

Gary Gaspard

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.

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Comments

Police Practices

What is the point of this article other than to fan the flames of anti-police sentiment that is going on in this country right now.  Of course no politician during an election season is going to say that all is rosey with the police department.  That's not good for collecting votes, especially in the African American community. 

Some of these candidates have been stopped numerous times by the police which I find very unusual, but the fact that these police encounters are not all rainbows and unicorns doesn't surprise me.

No one likes to be stopped by the police, it's stressful and embarrasing.  Add a ticket and even the most professional police officer suddenly becomes a jerk to the violator. I take great execption to Alderman Miller's ("stopped more that 10 times") claim of "anecdotal reports from members of our community" which by definition means an account not necessarily true or reliable based on personal accounts rather than facts or research.

That's a heck of an accusation to make without facts to support it. But hey this is politics, so lets make that reach.

Look, Evanston Police respond to thousand's of calls for service every year. Are mistakes made, sure. Have a few police officers embarrassed the department the with thier actions or behavior, yes.

All I can say is that this department has some of the most highly trained, professional and dedicated officers in the country. Chief Eddington has done a great job making sure his officers receive the latest training in de-escalation tecniques, racial diversity, as well as many other relevant topics. This is a difficult job people, it's dangerous and thankless yet the men and women do it with pride and devotion.

I look forward to the candidates opinion, on the fire department, sanitation, water and public works...waiting...waiting...

Well said

Agree with your remarks. Well done, former partner!

Tough on Crime

I think the police force here is about as good as you're gonna get anywhere, and I've had mostly good experiences with them, even when I was in the wrong.  Do we really expect folks who do that job to never make mistakes?  Furthermore, I personally feel Devon Reid was wrongfully arrested because he was disrespectful to the police, not illegal, but not the behavior I expect in an elected public official either.  

I am worried that if we take the police force we have for granted they will not go above and beyond to protect us anymore and just come to work to collect a check (Ferguson effect). We need the police to be vigilant and not feel the community is hostile towards them. The first warm day of the year, last Friday, there was a shooting at the Fleetwood center (unreported). Small children were playing on the playground at the time.  It's potentially gonna be a violent summer and we don't need low morale at the police department.

I was undecided on whether I was going to vote for Hagerty or Tendam. I was leaning toward Hagerty because his emergency management business had me think he would be tough on crime. Due to the two candidates' comments here, my vote is going to Tendam.

Clarity?

On the question of "stops" by police, were the candidates referring to Evanston Police stops or ANY police stop in their lifetime? 

And Ald. Miller is at it again; trash the police. If I understand what he said, he was considered suspicious for associating with Africian-Americans? Oh my!!

In no way do I think Brian

In no way do I think Brian Miller's attitude is to "trash the police", that is a highly subjective and unfair characterization of his desire that there should be more emphasis put on training to ensure de-escalation, which is good for all of us, regardless of economic means, color, creed. There is a trend of a few officers responding innapropriately to calls, and we as a city need to occasionally habe the ethical fortitude to ask hard questions to remedy issues like these. In a long coversation we had with him, it was beyond clear to us that he has a great respect for the plice as an institution, and wants to make sure it fully lives up to the trust and faith we have in them. I can't imagine anyone having a problem with that, and wolkd not consider entrusting publc leadership to a mayor who was curiously relextant to follow those ethics. It's when citizens or elected officials see potentailly problematic issues occurring (even if not at an alarming rate - yet) and feel that the only way to support those institutions is to be timid or relatively silent in facing said issues that future problems are magnified. Miller really cares about our city and has faith in it; part of that stance includes working to make it better, something we all can be proud of. 

Miller seems misguided

I'm curious if Brian Miller has ever done a ride along with an officer or attended the citizens police academy. It seems as if some of his views of the police department are misguided. 

Miller's curious respect for EPD

Brian Miller refused to answer whether police treat the public better or worse here than in the typical American community and that police would follow him around when he was with "his friends who are African-American."

Wow!! What an indictment from a mayoral candidate, former president of the Democratic party and chief of staff for Cook County Commissioner Democrat Larry Suffredin.

Miller, you might recall, wanted to eliminate the bike light ordinance because he said police are using the bike light rule as an inappropriate pretext for stopping late-night riders and he was instrumental in releasing a 2015 police videotape stop of Lawrence Crosby.

I wonder if Larry Suffredin, an Evanston resident whose son is running for 6th Ward Alderman, supports his chief of staff's curious respect for the Evanston Police Department.

Miller

I don't know that Miller's views on bike lights are at the top of many voters' minds, certainly none that I know of. I am incredibly glad that he got that video released, I would be dismayed if there was any effort to cover that up, that would be shocking, I think we can all agree on that. Good on him! Lastly, having talked with him about police training we really got the solid and totally reassuring idea that he respects police and simply wants a bit of more effective training so that unfortunate incidents are lessened and don't escalate. And as far as Suffredin's ideas (Suffredin's bailywick is real estate tax now) on police, if he said he wasn't for de-escalation training and the release of videos to the public (so we can responsibly and respectfully monitor our public official's behavior), than pretty much everyone I know who wants only the best for our great city would simply and comfortably agree to disagree with him. I also didn't know Suffredin had made statements on these issues, regardles of an unsubstantiated and therefore unfair insinuation that he would disapprove (did he not wnat that video released/ Does he not back common sense better training for police when needed? Wow. I wonder how he would feel about having words put in his mouth? I hope for him, not too happy,  - and the fact he has a family member running for office could not be less germane, I have no idea why that would be mentioned. Suffredin is not up for election here, correct? I cast my vote on my own research, I would NEVER be swayed or let some one else's opinion trump my own, and have never understood peopel who actually vote a certain way based on what someone else wants. Bizarre. 

Miller didn't "get the video released" & there was no "cover up"

Let's be clear.  Miller didn't get the Crosby tape released.  It was actually shown in  court months before the media picked up on it.

Additionally, it was released more widely in December because someone filed a freedom of information act request for the tape. 

Anybody can file a FOIA and a record like that will be released.  Nobody filed a FOIA until December.  Had some random John Doe filed a FOIA a month previous, it would have been released.

Miller is trying to play like he some sort of Elliot Ness, defender of truth.  The sad fact is, that he is implying controversy and cover-up when no such thing exists.

And, oh, I know many people concerned about the bike light issue.  Miller has been the most anti-traffic safety voice on the council. I would be happy with any of the other contenders due to his poor record on safety.

1. I've filed a FOIA, it is

1. I've filed a FOIA, it is simple to do. I've never once seen a FOIA filed when the public officaisl were glad unilaterally to release inf. Question: Why did it even HAVE to be FOIA'ed? Why is Miller's name associated with this issue if he did not want to see it furter developed (as in his comon sense/safety) desire for police de-escalation training?                                                                                       2. ANd, boy, do you and every othert Evanston resident I've spoken with have different priorities on what policies we expect our officials to look at. Budgeting, privatization, police/community issues,  immigration, gangs, TIFFS:  REAL city wide issues that underly the maintainance and development of our wonderful city. Did I read you correctly in your last sentence that you would actually place your vote (affecting all the vital and comprehensive issues I just mentioned) based on..... a candidate's bike safety record? That's what the syntax of that sentence says, did you perhaps mis-state it? Yikes, if so, I am done wity htis exchange. 

Looking for a parade to jump in front of and bad judgment

That is my view of Mr. Miller's candidacy:  he is always looking for a parade to jump in front of. 

Why does Mr. Miller's stated stance on bike likes come up repeatedly when I speak with people about him?  Here's why...judgment.  The idea that we would eliminate the city ordinance requiring that bicyclists use lights at night is against safety considerations and ignores the fact that there is still a state law that requires such lights. 

And why did Mr. Miller pronounce this goofy proposal in a public meeting? He said that one person filed a written objection to his lightless night-time bike stop then that person dropped his objection.

Opportunistic and exhibiting bad judgment.  Certainly not want I am want in the Evanston mayor.