Loss of police officers will have biggest impact going forward: Eddington
The loss of now 24 police officers from Evanston to other jurisdictions will have its greatest effect going forward as the department must replace experience and train officers brought in to work, the acting police chief said. of Evanston, Richard Eddington, to a town committee earlier this week.
Eddington told members of the council’s social services committee at their March 7 meeting that ‘we are really hammered at the moment with the attrition of qualified staff to other jurisdictions. And so in that context, I think we’re going to see a continued increase in crime because we don’t have the resources to apply to hotspots like we did before.
Eddington said many of the officers the department has lost in the past 24 months have come from specialist units: detectives, special operations, technical services.
“We haven’t filled those positions because we don’t have enough police patrolmen to cover the shifts, and so those specialties aren’t being renewed and retrained,” he said.
His comments were delivered during the second review by the Departmental Staffing Committee.
Councilman Devon Reid, 8th Ward, had called for discussion after Eddington revealed at the February 7 social services committee meeting that the department’s ranks had been reduced by 22 officers.
(The number now stands at 23, and a 24th officer recently announced he was leaving to join the Northbrook Police Department, Eddington said at the March 7 meeting.)
At the February meeting, Reid had requested that the police return to discuss further any correlation between police numbers and the city’s crime rate.
The committee’s discussion comes at a time when another group appointed by Mayor Daniel Biss, the Public Safety Reinvention Committee, is looking at other ways to provide services historically provided by the police.
Police strength stood at 135 sworn officers and 43 civilian employees, up from 178 as of October 27 last year, police said in their report at the March 7 meeting.
At that time, there were 19 sworn positions and 10 civilian positions vacant, for a total of 29 vacancies, officials said.
That’s more than double the highest annual number of vacancies in the past six years, officials said.
Vacancies among the 19 sworn personnel included chief of police, police commander and two sergeant positions, as well as 15 police officer positions, officials said.
One animal control warden position, five service desk officers and two telecommunications officer positions are among the 10 unsworn staff vacancies.
Since 2018, crime data indicates that overall crime is growing at around 5% per year, officials said in their report.
Violent crime follows a similar trend to overall crime between 2016 and 2021. Prior to 2018, violent crime was declining, followed by an upward trend through 2021, according to the report.
Council Member Reid, in his analysis, focused on the Crime Index figures that dated back to 1991 in the report.
With the exception of the last year, and a few “outlier” years, he said, the numbers have followed “a fairly steady decline”, from 6,303 incidents in 1991 to 1,982 in 2019 (before Covid) then 3,274 last year.
“Crime has been steadily declining, homicides have kind of fluctuated, it happens,” he observed.
“But the number of sworn officers has more or less stayed the same since the 1990s,” with a reduction in crime that far outweighs any loss of officers, he said.
“So there seems to be no correlation between the number of sworn officers we have and crime,” he concluded.
Eddington, head of the department from 2007 to 2018, suggested that the deployment of staff, then at senior levels, played a significant role in the reduction in crime the city had seen in previous years.
“If you look at the drop…we refined our deployment system and tried to get officers to where we expected the crimes to happen. It had a substantial impact,” he told committee members.
“So I would suggest to you an explanation is that we are much more sophisticated in deploying these very expensive human resources to fight crime, in a sense, before it happens.”
Special training and experience at your fingertips
In a separate report to the committee from Sgt. Jeff Faison, the 21 officers who left the department to work for other law enforcement agencies represent a combined total of more than 137 years of law enforcement experience.
Seven of the officers had more than 10 years of experience, Faison found. Ten were assigned to specialist units including the Special Operations Group, Investigations and Traffic. Several have also been assigned to specialized missions such as NORTAF Burglary (the Northern Regional Task Force), NORTAF Homicide, and the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System SWAT Group.
While the agents were at the department, EPD sent them on a combined total of 16,584 hours of training, according to Faison’s report.
Need a new definition of crime?
In further discussion, Reid observed that while the department is budgeted for 154 officers in the city budget, that is different from the number on the streets.
He said more details in this area might be helpful. Additionally, he noted, “We just bought drones and body cameras and all the things that I think would lead to efficiencies that could lead to reduced crime.”
He also suggested that the definition of a crime is also at issue in determining the right number of staff.
“If I worked at Target or a company, only to have my employer steal or not pay me my salary…we don’t send the police to investigate salary theft, but we have an office that investigates drug traffickers. drug. We don’t really investigate certain types of crimes that are just as destructive as, you know, drugs and stuff. And so we don’t really measure all of the crime that’s going on in our city unless we have a white-collar crime division within the police department that also focuses on other types of crime.
Along these lines, Bobby Burns, Council Member, 5th District, argued that an important part of the question “is how success is measured”.
“I think if the public and also this body understood how success was measured in each department, then those conversations would be easier, right?” he said. “Because we would agree on these measures. And then it’s very clear in the year, month by month, do we reach them or not? »
“You know, if I’m chief of police, one of the measures is, okay, how quickly can we respond to calls for duty and how often can we shut things down and yet how often can we -stop things before they happen.
In addition to a clearer definition, “I think we’re having a really important conversation about our committee on reinventing public safety,” Burns said. “And a lot of that also ties into this discussion, which is again, thinking about who were the best public servants to send to certain calls for service – whether it’s mental health or nuisance or disruption , and a lot of that for me also relates to this discussion.
Picking up the discussion, Eddington said one of his main concerns as police chief was “are there fewer casualties this year than last year?”
“How do we do what we do to prevent victimization? ” he said. “And it’s a very complex assessment because it has to do, for example, with decisions that are made outside of this building. For example, what does the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office do about repeat offenders? If they’re doing what they’re doing right now, I’d say it’s not working. But we cannot fix this directly. And now, how do we adjust what we do to function in this environment? »
Reid suggested follow-up committee discussions, naming Part 1 (violent) crimes, vehicle theft, arson, human trafficking – “all that stuff, that really dark stuff that cause real pain to others” – as worthy of further exploration.
In the meantime, he and the other committee members voted unanimously to accept the report that the police presented at the meeting.