Black Parents Say Police Mistreatment Is Common For Their Kids
After one 13-year-old honor student at Chute was handcuffed by police who believed he was a burglary suspect, his parents and others say police mistreatment of African American kids is widespread in Evanston.
Speaking before Evanston’s human services committee on Wednesday, Dale Greenwell told local officials he had just experienced “a black parent’s worst nightmare.”
His 13-year-old son, Diwani, was handcuffed last week in his front yard on Kirk Street by Evanston police officers who believed him to be a suspect in a burglary.
Dale Greenwell’s wife, Ava Thompson Greenwell, was at home when it happened and witnessed the incident. She told the committee that officers did not identify themselves or ask Diwani how old he was. They also ignored her repeated questions as she watched police clamp a pair of handcuffs on her son, Greenwell said.
She has since filed a complaint with the Evanston Police Department, alleging that officers mishandled the incident and relied on racial profiling when they arrested her son. The burglary suspect was described as wearing “khaki cargo shorts,” while her son was wearing navy blue cargo shorts that day, according to Greenwell. She believe police saw a black kid in a predominantly white neighborhood and disregarded the fact that the description did not exactly match up.
“It was unnecessary. It was unfair. It was un-American,” Greenwell told the members of the human services committee. “Evanston police have traumatized my entire family.”
Several other families spoke up at the meeting to say that they, too, had experienced similar incidents.
Jerry Walker said his son was stopped by police who also believed he was a suspect in a crime. After they determined that his son was not a suspect, an officer offered this apology, according to Walker: “Sorry, bro, we don’t mean to f*** with you.”
“It was not a very professional way to handle it,” he says. Walker said his son had also filed a complaint with the police department.
Germaine Newsome attended the meeting to describe a similar incident that happened to her daughter, Patrice.
“They gave us the same excuse that they gave to the Greenwells. ‘If something had happened to one of your children, you would want us to do the same,” she said. “No, I wouldn’t.”
Newsome’s daughter, Jacqueline, described the incident to the human services committee. Patrice, who was 16 at the time, was walking home with a friend when police drove toward her with their sirens on, bringing everyone in her neighborhood out of their homes to see what was going on. Officers told Patrice that she needed to get into their car or they would arrest her. Her sister was scared, Jacqueline said, but did as she was told. She was later released as a suspect, but the way police treated her was unforgettable, the Newsomes said.
Later, Jacqueline was in a car with a young white man who was stopped as a suspect in a burglary.
“The situation was totally different,” she says. Police politely asked to see his ID, then apologized for wasting his time.
Officers eventually apologized to the Newsomes after the family met with the police.
"The apology was little and it was late, but they did apologize," said Germaine Newsome.
Ald. Jane Grover and Ald. Peter Braithwaite both offered the Greenwells an apology.
“I think I understand how an incident like this would have repercussions of a different dimension for your outstanding, exemplary 13-year-old son than it would have for my outstanding, exemplary 12-year-old son,” said Grover.
“It’s difficult to sit here with a straight face and not be emotional when you hear stories like this, particularly as a parent with two black boys as well,” said Braithwaite. “So I hear you.”
He also suggested that the families who attended the meeting sign up for the city’s series of Community Dialogues on Race. The next discussion takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, in the Civic Center.
Police Chief Richard Eddington said the department’s internal investigation could take up to 60 days from the time the complaint was filed.