City Government 101: The Many Departments That Control Evanston
Who controls Evanston?
It might seem like an obvious question, but the real answer goes far beyond who drives cruisers on city streets. A wide variety of departments at all levels—local, state, regional, state, and federal—participate in the city’s law enforcement operations.
Here is an overview of the nine major police departments and organizations active in Evanston.
Local law enforcement
Evanston divides its local policing duties among several departments in different jurisdictions.
Evanston Police Department
The main law enforcement agency in town is, of course, the Evanston Police Department. Started in 1863 with police officer Robert Simpson, the department as of July 2022 had 128 sworn officers and 47 civilian support staff. These figures are significantly below the budgeted staff of 154 officers and 53 civilians, as the ministry continues to face a continuing shortage as officers retire or transfer to other departments.
The Evanston Police Department has a number of specialist divisions including a traffic bureau, a community policing unit and a special operations group focusing 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 named Jan. 3 to lead the department on an interim basis as the city searches for a new permanent chief.
North West Police
Located in Northwestern’s Department of Safety and Security and led by Chief Bruce Lewis, University Police has law enforcement jurisdiction on and around the Evanston and Chicago campuses. As of November 2020, the department consisted of 38 sworn officers, 20 civilian community services 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 in the north, Lake Michigan in the east, Lake Street in the south, and at Asbury Avenue and Green Bay Road to the west. NU police officers have the full powers of city police officers, except that the city assumes jurisdiction over all death investigations.
Led by Chief Joseph Perez, the Metra Police Department’s more than 140 officers have jurisdiction over people and property located on company trains, railroad tracks and yards. Unlike North West Police, Metra Police controls all death investigations independent of the EPD, such as recent death on the tracks north of Central Street Station.
EPD is a member of several inter-governmental ‘self-help’ organizations which help in special circumstances.
Northern Illinois Police Alarm System
Founded in 1983, NIPAS is a “police mutual aid” organization comprised of more than 100 suburban police departments in the Chicagoland area. Members agree to pool resources and personnel with other jurisdictions upon request for “any situation that its command staff deems the agency cannot handle with its own resources.”
The NIPAS has three components:
- A “car plan” which regularly sends officers and vehicles to respond to natural disasters.
- A mobile field force of crowd control officers to respond to demonstrations and other large public gatherings.
- An emergency services team of SWAT officers to respond to active shooters, hostage crises, and other tactical situations.
Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System
ILEAS is a “consortium of over 900 local governments” focused on statewide training and resource sharing, 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 Law Enforcement Training and Standards Council, State Police of Illinois and various state police departments.
ILEAS also has its own mobile field forces similar to NIPAS, located in eight regions of the state. Evanston is in Region 4 along with Lake County, DuPage County, and the rest of Cook County. These teams, and much of ILEAS operations in general, are primarily funded by Homeland Security grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Northern Region Major Crimes Task Force
NORTAF is an ongoing police task force that assists in the investigation of major crimes such as homicides and non-parental kidnappings in 13 northern suburban communities. More recently, NORTAF helped investigate the July 14 homicide of Servando Hamros and the July 25 Fowler Avenue shooting.
NORTAF also has Major Collision Assistance Teams (MCATs) that specialize in the investigation of fatal and serious vehicle accidents. MCATs are made up of an accident reconstructionist, two accident investigators, and a number of forensic specialists.
Local police are at the bottom of a jurisdictional ladder, but the upper echelons still play an active role in day-to-day policing.
Cook County Sheriff’s Office
The CCSO, currently headed by Sheriff Tom Dart, was established in 1922 and is the nation’s second largest sheriff’s department. In addition to being the primary police force for more than 100,000 people living in unincorporated parts of Cook County, it also operates the Cook County Jail in Chicago, provides security for the 17 courthouses in the county and executes warrants and eviction orders.
Illinois State Police
The FAI was also established in 1922 and provides a variety of high-level law enforcement services for the entire state. This includes conducting highway patrols, issuing firearms owner identification (FOID) cards and concealed carry permits, operating the state’s sex offender registry and the AMBER Alert System. and the transportation and protection of the Governor of Illinois.
The state police also regularly assist local law enforcement, both directly and indirectly. 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 to local police departments and operates the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, a “fusion center” that aggregates and shares intelligence for all police departments in Illinois.
Federal law enforcement
Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security all play a role in policing Evanston Local. FBI agents help investigate high-level crimes, such as the Bank of America robbery in 2011.
The DOJ and DHS provide more indirect support, usually in the form of federal grants for maintaining and expanding police operations. EPD and Northwestern UP control of remote cameras 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 Areas Safety Initiative.