Police find ‘insufficient evidence’ of racial profiling in Aug. 30 incident
Dale Greenwell and Ava Thompson Greenwell address the city's Human Services Committee on Monday night about a police report addressing their concerns that their son was racially profiled in August. (Bob Seidenberg | Sun-Times Media)
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:42AM
EVANSTON — Evanston police have found insufficient evidence to support a complaint from local parents that their 13-year-old son was a victim of racial profiling when he was detained in front of his home Aug. 30 before police realized they had the wrong burglary suspect.
In a response to the city council’s Human Services, officials with the department’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS) have recommended unsustained or unfounded findings to complaints filed by Ava Thompson Greenwell and Dale Greenwell.
The Greenwells, African-Americans, had charged that police were racially profiling when their son, Diwani, an honors student at Chute, was handcuffed to a back fence of his residence and then, against his mother’s wishes, brought to the front yard of the family’s Kirk Street home for a witness to ID him as a suspect in a burglary. He was released after the witness said he was not the suspect.
A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the family in U.S. District Court, initially charging arresting officer Mark Buell and the city with unreasonable search and seizure and false imprisonment, but later dropping the city from the complaint.
The parents said they disagreed with the OPS report, which was presented Monday night to the Human Services Committee.
Ava Thompson Greenwell, an assistant professor of journalism at the Medill School of Journalism, said she was not surprised with the findings. Internal Offices of Professional Standards “have a hard time being objective when it comes to policing themselves,’’ she said.
“Just because the report says that misconduct didn’t happen does not mean misconduct didn’t happen,” she said.
She took issue with sections of the report that portrayed her as confrontational with officers, charging race was the basis for their actions.
“I want to reiterate that our son did nothing wrong on Aug. 30 and neither did I,’’ she said. “I guess just raising the issue of racial profiling with them struck a nerve.”
She said the report contained inaccurate and false statements, which the family will respond to in the lawsuit.
After conducting detailed interviews with the complainants, arresting officers and others, OPS investigators recommended the racial profiling complaint was unfounded.
On Aug. 30, officers were responding to a burglary on Seward where the suspect was described as a male black youth wearing khaki shorts and a dark brown or dark-colored shirt, said Acting Deputy Chief James Pickett.
Two youths were detained separately; each was a black male youth wearing cargo shorts. Officers detained Diwani, who was on a bike, “based upon the description given by the victim, and also based upon circumstances involving the radio dispatch stating that the youth appeared to be riding away from the officers pursuing him on foot.”
Police also found unsustained the charge that the handcuffing and witness showing up violated guidelines.
Handcuffing decisions rely on an officer’s interpretation of facts and circumstances, and upon the standard of reasonableness, Police Chief Richard Eddington said in a memo.
“In this instance the continued movement by the juvenile influenced the officers perception of the need to utilize handcuffs to detain him. It should be noted that when another juvenile (also black) was stopped during this burglary investigation, flight was not a perceived risk, consequently handcuffs were not utilized,” wrote the chief.
He said the reason officers conducted the witness ID in the front yard was based on their concern for the victim’s ability to quickly determine whether a suspect can be identified.
“In this particular case the victim was driven to two show ups, saving the victim’s time and police resources, by eliminating the two suspects and permitting the officers to continue to search for the offender,’’ he said. “The time of this detention (by one estimate roughly five minutes) was very short,leading to a very expedited resolution on scene.”
The chief acknowledged, “The complainant’s initial verbal accusations regarding racial profiling and the general conduct of police set a tone for less-than-positive resolution.”
He is recommending the department seek the services of Dr. Aaron Thompson, a noted scholar in the field of race relations as they pertain to police departments, to work with police on communication skills.