Who polices Evanston?
It might seem like an obvious question, but the real answer goes far beyond who drives cruisers through city streets. A wide variety of departments at all levels – local, district, regional, state and federal – participate in city police operations.
Here is a summary of the nine major police departments and organizations active in Evanston.
local law enforcement
Evanston shares its local policing duties across multiple departments with different jurisdictions.
Evanston Police Department
The main law enforcement agency in the city is, of course, the Evanston Police Department. Started in 1863 with officer Robert Simpson, the department as of July 2022 had 128 sworn officers and 47 civilian support staff. These numbers are significantly lower than the budgeted staff of 154 officers and 53 civilians as the department continues to deal with a continuous shortage as directors retire or transfer to other departments.
The Evanston Police Department has several specialized divisions, including a traffic department, a community policing unit, and a special operations group focused on “illegal drug dealing and gang-related issues” and “current or frequent crime patterns.” . With the June 2021 retirement of Chief of Police Demitrous Cook, former Chief Richard Eddington was hired January 3 to lead the department in the interim as the city looks for a new permanent chief.
Located at Northwestern’s Department of Safety and Security and headed by Chief Bruce Lewis, the University Police has law enforcement jurisdiction in and around the Evanston and Chicago campuses. As of November 2020, the department consisted of 38 sworn officers, 20 civilian community service officers, 43 contract security officers, and nine dispatch operators.
In Evanston, the University Police is headquartered at 1201 Davis St., and a city-university agreement extends its jurisdiction to the city limits of Evanston to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, Lake Street to the south, and Asbury Avenue and Green Bay Road to the West. NU officers have the full powers of municipal officers, except that the city assumes jurisdiction over all death investigations.
Led by Chief Joseph Perez, the more than 140 officers of the Metra Police Department have jurisdiction over people and property located on the company’s trains, railways and rail yards. Unlike Northwest Police, Metra Police have control over all separate EPD death investigations, such as the recent death in the tracks north of Central Street station.
mutual aid organizations
The EPD is a member of several intergovernmental “mutual aid” organizations that help in special circumstances.
Northern Illinois Police Alarm System
Founded in 1983, NIPAS is a “police mutual aid” organization made up of more than 100 suburban police departments throughout the Chicagoland area. Members agree to pool resources and personnel for other jurisdictions, upon request, for “any situation that your command team believes the agency cannot handle on its own resources.”
NIPAS has three components:
- A “car plan” that sends officers and regular vehicles to respond to natural disasters.
- A mobile field force of crowd control officers to respond to protests and other large public gatherings.
- An emergency services team of SWAT officers to respond to active snipers, hostage crises and other tactical situations.
Illinois law enforcement alarm system
ILEAS is a “consortium of more than 900 local governments” focused on training and resource sharing across the state, created in 2002 in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The 13-acre ILEAS Training Center in Urbana offers courses for SWAT teams, Mobile Field Forces, Illinois Police Standards and Training Board, Illinois State Police and a variety of police departments across the state.
ILEAS also has Mobile Field Forces, similar to NIPAS, spread across eight regions of the state. Evanston is in Region 4 with Lake County, DuPage County and the rest of Cook County. These teams, and many of ILEAS’ operations in general, are primarily funded by homeland security grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Northern Region Serious Crimes Task Force
NORTAF is a permanent police task force that assists in the investigation of serious crimes, such as murders and unparental abductions, in 13 northern suburban communities. More recently, NORTAF helped investigate the July 14 murder of Servando Hamros and the July 25 Fowler Avenue shooting.
NORTAF also has Major Accident Assistance Teams (MCAT) specialized in the investigation of fatal or serious automobile accidents. MCATs are comprised of an accident reconstructor, two accident investigators, and several forensic experts.
Local police are at the bottom of a range of jurisdictions, but the higher echelons still play an active role in day-to-day police work.
Cook County Sheriff’s Office
The CCSO, currently headed by Sheriff Tom Dart, was created in 1922 and is the second largest sheriff’s department in the country. In addition to being the primary police force for the more than 100,000 people who live in unincorporated parts of Cook County, it also administers Chicago’s Cook County Jail, provides security for all 17 county courts, and enforces warrants and dump.
Illinois State Police
The ISP was also created in 1922 and provides a variety of top-notch law enforcement services across the state. This includes conducting highway patrols, issuing Firearm Owner Identification Cards (FOID) and concealed carry permits, running the state sex offender registry and AMBER alert system, and transporting and securing the Governor of Illinois .
State police also regularly assist local law enforcement, directly and indirectly. The ISP deploys four SWAT teams to respond to significant active threats as needed, and six labs provide forensic analysis services (such as DNA, ballistics and toxicology) to investigators across the state. It also provides training and grants funding to local police departments and maintains the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, a “fusion hub” that aggregates and shares intelligence for all Illinois police departments.
Federal law enforcement
Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security play roles in local policing in Evanston. FBI agents assist in the investigation of high-profile crimes such as the Bank of America robbery in 2011.
The DOJ and DHS offer more indirect support, usually in the form of federal grants to sustain and expand police operations. EPD and Northwestern UP’s body camera piloting in 2017 was funded by a grant from the DOJ, and the purchase of an unmanned drone for EPD and EFD in 2020 was funded by a grant from the DHS Urban Area Security Initiative.