With the police team in a daily ‘security act’, the EPD temporarily transfers the popular unit

Evanston Police scrambled to fill 12-hour shifts last month, leading to an August 4 announcement that the department’s Community Policing Unit (CPU) would be deployed to patrol to address a severe staff shortage.

The Evanston Police Department announced in a press release that five members – four officers and one sergeant – of the unit were being reassigned to patrol for what is expected to be a minimum 60-day temporary duty.

“This drastic measure is necessary due to the continuing shortage of staff faced by the Department,” the press release said.

Acting Police Chief Richard Eddington is interviewed Aug. 5 in his office at the Evanston Police Station. Credit: Bob Seidenberg

The officers relocated to the unit are among the most visible in the city. In many ways, they serve as the face of the EPD to the public. At ward meetings, council members often turn to officers present to provide information on recent crime trends, and officers provide insightful analysis and suggest steps community members can take to better protect themselves.

“It’s a group of people who work hard and have done what the department asked,” Acting Police Chief Richard Eddington said during an Aug. 5 interview in his office on the second floor of the station. “And this is a significant request for a temporary period of time, and I realized [from the response to the news release] there is consternation in the community.

“But at the end of the day, to police a city of 75,000 people, you need cops,” he said. “So you need police officers in the patrol division. Hopefully, as people complete their field training program, we can start replacing people at the CPU. But that depends on many factors.”

One factor is achieving some level of assurance that there are enough police officers to fill a 12-hour shift, he said.

In the month of July alone, the department had 47 hires – when officers were either called back to work or put off to work another six hours so the police could have 10 people working the shift.

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