Kimkea Harris, an attorney with the state Fraternal Order of Police, told aldermen Monday night that Evanston has an unusually strong review process to investigate complaints against officers.
The FOP represents officers in more than 500 police departments across Illinois, Harris said, and in almost all of those towns the only recourse citizens have to challenge police conduct is to file an affidavit alleging violations — which could subject the citizen to prosecution if his or her statements were determined to be false.
But Evanston, Harris said, goes beyond that Complaint Register process mandated by state law and also allows citizens to more informally request a Departmental Inquiry into officers’ conduct.
Harris said with more than 67,000 encounters between citizens and police so far this year — only two Complaint Register allegations and four Department Inquiry requests have been filed.
She also argued that the fact that in two of the six cases the department sustained complaints against officers demonstrated that the process in Evanston “is not a rubber stamp.”
She said Evanston police operate respectfully and transparently and exceed most departments in that regard.
She also said said Evanston officers have participated in diversity, restorative justice and other training programs and returned to the department to teach their fellow officers those techniques for improving relations with the community. “That’s very unusual for departments across the nation,” Harris said.
The Human Services Committee Monday also received a report on the complaint filed by Rob Bady about the arrest of his 12-year-old son Iain — who was one of three kids riding on a bike across a downtown against a traffic light who forced drivers of two cars to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision.
In the report, Chief Richard Eddington concluded that the officers who made the arrest “behaved according to departmental policy/guidelines, made competent and lawful decisions and at no time were disrespectful or abusive.”
But he concluded that a mistake had occurred at the police station when an officer not involved in the initial arrest gave the father the wrong station adjustment form to sign. He directed that the forms be rewritten in an effort to avoid that problem in the future and that additional training be provided for juvenile officers.
Bady told aldermen, “All of our kids need to be free to roam around and be goofy. They never should have been arrested.”
He said the members of the Citizens Police Advisory Committee who supported the chief’s decision in the case “got it wrong.”
“I did not sue,” Bady said, “I don’t really have the money to sue. It’s a waste of time.”
“But it was also a waste of time what they [the police] were doing that day with the kids.”
In response to a question from Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, Police Cmdr. Jody Wright, who heads the department’s office of professional standards, said that under the state juvenile court act, once officers had detained the youths at the scene they could only be released to their parents, unless the parents gave consent to releasing the kids to another adult.
But when officers asked Iain for his parents’ contact information, the report says, Iain said his cell phone battery was dead, and his 15-year-old sister, who was also present, refuse to provide the information.