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Reimagining Public Safety
Since last spring, there have been many urgent calls for defunding the police. And we have heard from many residents reporting that they are over-policed and do not feel safe. These voices have prompted some very important and overdue conversations about what we as a community want and need from our police department and from our City. What can and should we be doing to ensure a safe community for all our residents.
I believe the following initiatives can be part of the answer:
Alternative 9-1-1 Crisis Response Program. Many 9-1-1 calls for service involve non-criminal, non-violent situations, including mental health issues, homelessness, and substance abuse, and do not require a response from a uniformed police officer. I am working with Ald. Fleming on developing an Alternative 9-1-1 Crisis Response program that will send a two-person team (e.g., a behavioral health professional and a public health professional) to handle the situation. This approach will get the right people to the scene to provide the care and support the individual in crisis needs.
EPD Staffing Study. An outside review of the Evanston Police Department in 2018 made several recommendations to improve service and efficiency in the department. While most of these recommendations have been followed, the final one, to conduct a staffing study, remains to be implemented. It is critical that this staffing study be done and that it be conducted in concert with a community-wide conversation about policing in Evanston.
Alternatives to Arrest. Beginning in May 2017, this committee has been working to develop “off-ramps” from the criminal justice system, particularly for our youth. Several policy and program changes recommended by the committee have been implemented: automatic expungement of juvenile records, revision of the station adjustment forms, and administrative adjudication as an alternative to the criminal justice system for juveniles, with an opportunity to participate in meaningful community service and a restorative experience. I have been a supportive member of this committee since its inception.