City already 'defunding' police

Evanton officers at a crime scene in 2016.

Budget constraints have already substantially reduced funding for the Evanston Police Department this year -- even before police killings elsewhere led to recent demands that local governments "defund" their police forces.

Police Cmdr. Brian Henry says the department's basic budget calls for 165 sworn officers, but five of those positions were ordered held vacant in this year's city budget and eight more positions have been frozen as a result of COVID-19 induced budget concerns.

Add some recent retirements, and Henry says that the officer count will be down to 149 as of this Friday when Deputy Chief James Pickett retires.

That's about an 8 percent staffing reduction.

The city is also currently negotiating with the police union, seeking to have all officers take 10 furlough days over the rest of this year as an additional pandemic-related expense reduction.

Assuming those furlough days were to start next month, that will amount to roughly another 8 percent reduction in effective police staffing for the remainder of the year.

Mayor Steve Hagerty on Tuesday pledged that the City Council will conduct a review of police operations -- including "an examination of the police budget, functions and practices."

But its unclear at this point whether that review -- or citizens' experience with reduced police staffing through the rest of this year -- will lead to a restoration of police funding once the pandemic-induced budget crisis eases or additional cutbacks in police staffing.

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