With lateral recruiting and referral bonuses, Evanston is taking action to stop the loss of police officers to other departments

Evanston officials launched a campaign to recruit officers from other law enforcement agencies to address a manpower shortage within the Evanston Police Department. The department is currently downsized by 22 officers, acting police chief Richard Eddington told members of the city council’s social services committee at their February 7 meeting.

Acting Chief of Police Richard Eddington on the large number of officers leaving town: “We spent a lot of time and money training them in everything from gun tracing to analysis of cell records. It’s extremely expensive to duplicate and frankly will be a drain on our resources for the foreseeable future. (Photo credit: City of Evanston)

Eddington, who served as Evanston’s police chief from 2007 to 2018, was brought back in December to serve as acting police chief until the city hires a permanent chief, expected later this year. .

He told Committee members at the meeting that the police were working with Acting City Manager Kelley Gandurski, Human Resources Manager Megan Fulara and Human Resources Specialist Casey Solomon to develop a strategy to deal with the acute shortage. ..

Additionally, city officials took steps late last year to boost the attractiveness of working for the city, reaching an agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police – the union that represents police officers – on retention and referral bonus issues.

Under the agreement, a current police department employee who recommends an officer for side hire would receive $2,500 if the recommended person is subsequently hired and sworn in as a member of the Evanston Police Department, according to a copy of the agreement obtained through a Freedom of Information Request by the Roundtable.

If the new police officer remains a police officer beyond the probationary period, the employee who made the recommendation would receive an additional $2,500 at the end of this probationary period.

Eddington’s remarks on the lateral recruiting program came in response to a committee agenda item on reviewing morale at the department.

The discussion of vacancies comes at a time when a committee established by Mayor Daniel Biss, the Public Safety Reinvention Committee, is reviewing the city’s public safety efforts, including police department functions and the assignment of staff.

The recruitment effort targets agents from other communities who have already undergone basic training and have some experience.

The process would then shorten the time new officers would need to become full-time officers at Evanston and also eliminate the need to send them to a 14- to 16-week basic training school, Eddington said.

“Staffing is a national issue for law enforcement everywhere,” the chief told committee members.

The game, the chief said, is that “many of our core staff are Tier Two retirees, which basically means their pensions are portable to any other municipality in Illinois.

“This means that we are in direct competition [in] what benefits we offer, what salaries we offer, what working conditions we offer,” he told Committee members.

He said the department has taken steps to highlight the benefits of working for the city. EPD is preparing an ad for The BlueLine, a website that posts jobs for police officers, to highlight what makes the City of Evanston an attractive employer.

“I think it’s very important because it has a different perspective than what we would say to our recruits who have no experience,” he said.

He said the department’s move to 12-hour shifts earlier this year could also work in the city’s favor. The change means longer daily working hours, but also gives officers longer periods of time off.

Eddington said the number of vacancies is based on a department budgeted for 154 full-strength officers. No reason was given as to why the officers left town.

Of the 22 officers who left the department between January 2019 and February 2022, 20 were lost to other police departments, with a number going to work for departments in the northern and northwest suburbs of Chicago. , Eddington said.

“And that’s telling,” he told Committee members, “and one of the main things I want to alert the Council to is that these are core staff [whose experiences range] of basic training and less than one year to 11-year-old veterans who have elected to leave the Evanston Police Department and be employed by another agency.

“I think I’m going to need more research to find out why,” he said. “I think promotion opportunities are part of that. I discussed how we could improve this with HR [Human Resources], and we continue to have these discussions. I will also look for other issues that we can resolve quickly in an effort to reduce the flow of experienced and capable agents. »

“One of the biggest things about this is,” he added, “especially if you lose people who are over five, [that] we spent a lot of time and money training them in everything from tracing firearms to analyzing cell records. It’s extremely expensive to duplicate and frankly will be a drain on our resources for the foreseeable future.

Much larger vacancy figure, according to another tally

Timothy Schoolmaster, chairman of the board of directors of the Evanston police pension fund, calculated that with the departure of the police officers, the city transferred nearly $ 2 million in pension contributions to the pension funds of the police from other suburbs.

He said officers who have left for other police departments or law enforcement agencies include three in Arlington Heights, one in Aurora, one in Barrington, one in Glenview, one in Round Lake, one in St. Charles, one in Dallas, Tex. , and one to the FBI.

He offered figures suggesting that the number of vacancies could be even higher. Figures from the Evanston Police Pension Fund show the police force stood at a peak of 163 as of December 31, 2018 and had fallen to 122 at the start of this year, a loss of nearly 40 officers, a- he declared.

He acknowledged that the difference may depend “on where you start your numbers”.

The schoolmaster, a 30-year veteran of the force who was actively involved in recruiting, training and administration during his time in the department, said the city’s loss of the skills and knowledge of officers who left is “incalculable”.

Even “with the best and the brightest” as replacements, it “will probably take five to seven years to recover” that experience, he said.

At one time, the department was considered a national model for policing, Schoolmaster said.

“We’ve had people from across the country apply to come here,” he said.

On February 7, members of the Social Services Committee were scheduled to join a full executive session of Council that same evening and held only a limited discussion on the issue of police morale and personnel.

The Committee is expected to go into detail in a discussion scheduled for its next meeting on March 7.

Eighth Ward council member Devon Reid told Eddington that at the March 7 meeting he would like to see numbers supporting the current number of officers in the force. With that, he said he’d like to see a comparison of crime rates over a few decades with the number of police in place at the time “and how those two lines correlated” over the years.

Chief Eddington said he would ensure the information is included in the committee’s report next month.