Tendam’s Response to the UNC Traffic Stop Study

Below is a verbatim transcript of Alderman Tendam’s remarks to the Human Services Committee (of which he is chair) regarding the University of North Carolina study that found the Evanston Police Department has the highest post-traffic stop search rate in the country for people of color.  Also included is the response to the study that he posted on Facebook, including a series of questions that he has sent to the Evanston Police Department.

The full text of the study can be found here.

A video of the full Committee meeting can be found here.

Remarks to the Human Services Committee (March 6th):

“Before we get going on the next part of the Agenda I want to address the UNC Traffic Stop study that was published last week.

The study found that at least through 2014, black and brown people driving in Evanston were more likely to be searched following a traffic stop than white people.

The study also found that while there was disparity in the rate of post-stop searches in all but 7 of the 650 law enforcement agencies surveyed, the disparity was much higher in Evanston and Chicago than elsewhere.

I believe that we have to drill into this issue in depth so that we can understand:

  • First, if this is still the case in 2017?
  • And if it is, whether this disparity exists across our entire City or is the product of targeted policing in neighborhoods that have high concentrations of black and brown residents?
  • Are black and brown people being searched more frequently than white people everywhere in Evanston?

I think the assumption is that targeted policing in areas of color is driving these numbers, but we do not know that for sure. We all need to know whether black and brown people are more likely to be searched wherever they may be in Evanston, or if this is just the case in certain higher crime areas which also have large concentrations of black and brown residents.

But that is just one piece of this.  Because if targeted policing is creating this disparity, we all need to know:

  • The provable impacts of targeted policing:
    •  What evidence do we have that targeted policing actually has lowered crime?
    •  Whether there are alternatives to targeted policing—what are the agencies with lower search rate disparities doing and how has that impacted their crime rates?

And wherever these questions take us, we need to continue looking for ways to increase trust in the Police, de-escalate the use of force where we can and create greater levels of community engagement.

These things can and should proceed on a parallel track. I have provided a list of questions to Chief Eddington, the members of the committee and the City Manager which I believe will get us the answers that we need.

I ask that Chief Eddington and his staff to answer these questions as soon as possible and I ask City Manager to include these questions as an addendum to tonight’s minutes and post them to the City’s website.”

Ald. Tendam’s Questions and Response Made on Facebook


Like many of you, I was greatly disturbed to read the results of the UNC Chapel Hill study on ‘Racial Disparities in Traffic Stop Outcomes’ which was published last month. For anyone who did not read the full study (or the reporting on it that was done by Injustice Watch) the main takeaways are the following:

The study examined data (through 2014) from close to 650 law enforcement agencies across 16 different states.

For virtually all of the agencies studied for this period, Black and Hispanic people were more likely to be searched following a traffic stop than White people. Specifically a Black person was 2.5 times more likely to be searched following a stop than a White person and a Hispanic person was 3.14% more likely to be searched following a stop than a White person).

But again, this is just the average. The report went on to find that for the overall period studied, the Evanston Police Department had the highest Black to White post-stop search rate in the country. Specifically, the study found that for some of the years studied, a Black person was seven times more likely to be searched following a traffic stop than a White person and that a Hispanic person was 11.26% more likely to be searched following a stop than a White person.

Before I say anything else on this subject I want to make three things clear:

I have enormous respect for the brave men and women of the Evanston Police Department who put their lives on the line every day to protect us and our families. We owe a huge debt of gratitude, not only to these men and women but to the husbands, wives, children and parents who support and worry about them every minute that they are on the job.

I likewise have nothing but respect and admiration for Police Chief Eddington and Police Commander Dugan who have, throughout the entire time that I have known them, demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fairness, justice and the overall safety and well-being of our City.

I believe that any bias reflected in the results of the UNC Chapel Hill Study are the result of systemic bias (i.e., how and where we are currently deploying our forces) as opposed to any personal bias, prejudice or ill will on the part of the first responders who serve this community. Evanston has a police force that looks like the city it polices and that is a good thing. But it is not the only thing.

I would not be doing my job as a member of this Council OR as a citizen of this community if, without any additional inquiry, I simply accepted that the systemic bias reflected in the UNC study was a price that had to be paid to reduce crime and get guns off the streets.

The fact that crime decreased 7.2% last year is undeniably a good thing. And it is also a good thing that investigatory traffic stops resulted in the seizure of 50 unlawful guns last year. But we have to examine the human and social cost associated with these gains and whether there are less intrusive ways of achieving these goals.

I am not prepared to simply accept, without further investigation, that these positive results could only have been achieved via targeted policing or, even if that is the case, that the costs associated with targeted policing (increased distrust among the members of the targeted communities, anecdotal evidence of reduced property values in those communities, etc.) are outweighed by the perceived benefits.

And even if the answer to that question is that targeted policing is a net positive for the City, we have to find ways of reducing the negative impacts on the neighborhoods that are feeling the brunt of these practices. Ideas that I support include: increased neighborhood policing, placing a greater focus on community engagement programs (like the “Officer and a Gentleman” partnership with District 65 that kicked off this weekend), redoubling our efforts to find employment and job training for the City’s youth and ensuring that police body cameras (included as part of the Department’s 22 step de-escalation plan) are activated for all traffic stops.

As Pastor Michael Nabors said so eloquently recently: “there is a large issue” in Evanston and it “is an Evanston issue, not just an African–American community issue. If there is a wrong within any aspect of the community the entirety of Evanston feels the pain.” We cannot succeed in improving our relationships with one another if we do not work together to investigate these issues while simultaneously exploring more pro-active ways of reducing crime—including the positive steps I have outlined above.

In that spirit, I am sharing with you the questions that I will be presenting to Police Chief Eddington at the Human Services Committee Meeting at 6:00 PM on March 6th. I urge you to attend and make your concerns known at that meeting but in doing so I would ask that you keep in mind that everyone involved in this dialogue wants the same thing in the end — we all want to feel safe, secure and respected. That is true for all of us — citizens and police alike.

Here are my questions:


1. For 2015 and 2016, how many traffic stops were conducted by the EPD?

2. Of those stops, how many were for safety violations (running stop lights or stop signs, speeding, etc.) and how many were “investigatory” in nature (i.e., stops based on “suspicion of wrong-doing” supported by things like broken or missing tail lights, expired registrations)?

3. For each category of stop, how many resulted in the driver and/or passenger and/or the vehicle they were riding in being searched?

4. For each category of stop how many times was the driver white, black or brown?

5. For each search, how many times was the driver (or passenger) white, black or brown?

6. One of the most positive steps that the Evanston Police have adopted in recent years is the requirement that post-stop searches be supported by probable cause. What steps are in place to objectively evaluate these probable cause assessments?


1. What is the mean number of traffic stops per year for the City of Evanston?

2. Which precincts or beats had more than the mean number of Traffic Stops in 2015 and 2016?

3. How many of those stops were for safety violations and how many were “investigatory”?

4. For each category of stop, how many resulted in a search of the driver, the passenger or the vehicle?

5. For each precinct or beat where the number of stops was in excess of the mean in 2015 and 2016, is there evidence that the crime rate in that neighborhood fell from the prior year (i.e., from 2014 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2016) and if so by how much?

6. Of the 50 illegal guns that were recovered as the result of traffic stops last year:

  • How many stops in total were made that year?
  • How many of those stops resulted in a post-stop search?
  • How many stops resulted in the seizure of firearms (in other words, were the 50 guns seized as the result of 50 different stops)?
  • Were the guns discovered through a post-stop search in every case where illegal firearms were seized or were some of those firearms visible in plain sight before any search was initiated (and if so how many times did that occur)?
  • In the cases where firearms were seized, were the suspects known to police before the stop occurred (and if so could a search have been conducted by some other means—such as by securing a warrant for the search of the suspect’s last known residence)?

7. Is data available showing the crime rates for the communities in the study that have lower post stop search ratios than Evanston?

8. Do we know whether communities with post stop search ratios closer to the National average have rejected the “geo-mapping” methodology that Evanston and Chicago uses and if so, do we know what if any impact that decision has had on their crime rates over time?”

We welcome citizen comments and concerns regarding this issue. Please reach out to us at info@marktendam.net.


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