Northwestern Professor Says Police Racially Profiled Her Son, 13

Evanston police handcuffed a 13-year-old Chute Middle School student, believing him to be the suspect in a burglary. They are now conducting an internal investigation of the officer involved.

Evanston police are conducting an internal investigation of one officer after he handcuffed the 13-year-old son of a professor, mistakenly believing him to be a suspect in a burglary.

Diwani Greenwell, a student at was riding his bike near his home in Evanston last Thursday when police cars began following him, according to WGN-TV. As he got off his bike to walk home, police ran toward him, ordered him to put his hands on his head and then put handcuffs on, Greenwell told WGN-TV.

Police told Greenwell that they were searching for a burglar described as “a black male wearing cargo shorts,” according to the Daily Northwestern. When the victim of the burglary told police he was the wrong person, they let him go, WGN-TV reports.

His mother, Northwestern University professor Ava Thompson Greenwell, also witnessed the incident, according to the Daily, and filed a complaint against the police department on Friday. She claims that the first officer did not correctly identify himself and that police used excessive force given that at least five officers approached her son, who was alone. 

Greenwell told the Daily that she believes the incident is also an example of racial profiling, and plans to speak before the city council on Wednesday.

Commander Aretha Hartley, of the Evanston Police Department's Office of Professional Standards, released a statement Friday in response to the complaint.

“It is officers' perception that they were following protocol in using their discretion in detaining and handcuffing the youth," Hartley said.

Police spokesperson Perry Polinski told Patch that the complaint was still being investigated as of Tuesday morning. 

"In addition to investigating facts, [the Office of Professional Standards] would interview the officer or officers involved to determine whether or not their action was appropriate," he said.

Earlier this year, against the city of Glencoe, alleging that police were guilty of racial profiling when they issued him a ticket for biking through a construction zone. 

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, to include a response from the Evanston Police Department.

Richard Schulte September 04, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Typical university professor.
Jim September 04, 2012 at 05:06 PM
No harm, no foul. If the police had not done what they did and the young man was the right guy and he got away or hurt someone, the police would have been accused of dereliction and not caring about victims. If someone described me as a white male in cargo shorts and I was cuffed according to protocol, would it be racial profiling?
Melanie September 04, 2012 at 06:48 PM
The problem here is that this is a 13 year old child, who was unduly arrested for riding his bike, and who also happens to be black. If this had happened to either of you, you would have wet your pants and cried like a baby! Unfortunately, it happens all too many times for black men. If the suspect were described as white, the police would not go around arresting any young white child that fit that description.
B. Dortch September 05, 2012 at 12:23 AM
No harm, no foul is true but if the first officer failed to properly identify himself and possible excessive force with used, I think an investigation is warranted. My question is was a juvenile officer present? B. Dortch
B. Dortch September 05, 2012 at 03:37 PM
...was used...*
Melanie September 05, 2012 at 04:15 PM
No harm, no foul?? How would you or your 13 year old child feel if they were arrested by a bunch of police officers, who surrounded them, their mother, on their own front yard... which happened to be in an affluent area of Evanston. They also felt so threatened by this child, that they handcuffed him. But then, we forget that most white males don't experience this type of injustice at some point or other in their lives, and don't lead a life fearing it, while an alarming percentage of black males can not claim that special honor.
Robert Reid September 05, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I hate to tell you but the Evanston Police, and every other police department on the face of this earth, use profiling to look at suspects. Here was a crime committed and a black male wearing cargo shorts was described as the offender. Along comes a police officer, he sees a black male, wearing cargo shorts, and he is riding his bike from the area in question. This person fit the profile of the offender in a burglary. The initial officer, using this profile along with his or her experience, called it in on his radio, and other units arrived to back him up. Now, in case you didn't know it, burglary is a forcible felony, and if you do not secure the suspect, you could be in trouble. A youth officer would not need to be called unless they were taking this kid into the station. If it had been a white male described, the same amount of police presence would have been used when stopping that suspect. Catching a burglar is a big deal, and instead of second guessing the police, you should thank them for the job they do.
Melanie September 05, 2012 at 10:58 PM
One only needs to read the information provided by the victim, the police department and the mother, to understand that the child who was handcuffed did not fit the description of the alleged perpetrator. Along come several police officers, who failed to identify themselves as officers. They see a black male who remotely fits the description given by the victim, and decide to arrest him without due cause. Maybe, they'll be more careful not to use "racial" profiling in the future once this family rightfully sues the department. In case you didn't know, "racial" profiling and infringement of one's civil rights is against the law and could end up costing our city a lot of money.
Robert Reid September 06, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Tell that to the victims of 9-11. If not for profiling, you would be searching 75 year old grandmothers, not the people (Islamic men, between 18-30 years of age) who actually did those murders. An extreme, yes, but it shows how crazy people have become about "profiling". Profiling is a valuable tool in law enforcement. Why do you think officers ask for the age and race and physical description of an offender? That's because you automatically eliminate everyone who does not fit the description, and when you see someone close to that description, you have a better chance of solving the crime. And, this kid was not arrested. He was held until the victim could say he was not the offender, and released at the scene. Arrest means being brought to the station, processed, fingerprinted, and held until you can go to court for a bond hearing. And again I will say that arresting a suspect in a burglary, a forcible felony, is a big deal and brings the potential for a fight with the officers. If it can be defused with a show of force, everyone is better off. The fact that five officers showed up in seconds shows how seriously the police take it when someone breaks into your house. By the way, as an Evanston tax payer, you shouldn't want the City to lose a lawsuit because you will have to pay it in increased property and sales taxes.
Melanie September 06, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Take your head out of your a@%, and try to see how others experience the real world and the everlasting effect that it has on their lives, ....especially a 13 year old child. Timothy McVeigh was a white man. Why are they not profiling white men at the airports and Government buildings? Profiling is racially motivated and has a nasty history behind it. By the way, I never said I wanted the city to pay out lawsuits. Lawsuits (when properly utilized) are an alternative way to make positive changes when the system that is set in place fails to secure our rights and our safety, and all else fails. Arrested, detained, it is still traumatizing and in this case, without due cause. Some people need to wake up one morning and find themselves in another person's shoes for one day. That would almost certainly change the way way they see the world.
Robert Reid September 06, 2012 at 02:05 PM
When you start taking the side of a Northwestern professor who has an interest in the case without looking at the other sides, you are failing to be open minded. This person was a family member and cannot help but see her son in a different light. I look at my own children differently than others. It is a human tendency to lift your children up. However, to accuse the police and threaten a lawsuit fails to acknowledge the good job your police are doing every day and every minute of your life. When you're sleeping, the police are there. When you're with family on the holidays, the police are there. Why don't you get your head out of your a@% and support the police instead of dragging them down.
mij September 06, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Melanie Have you been to Airport lately. TSA inspects everyone. Did you even read the Article?????????????????
John Brinkmann September 07, 2012 at 11:05 AM
based on the information as provided, I personally don't believe racial profiling is an issue here----but I have to believe the police could have handled the situation in a different manner...the article says nothing about the kid being unruly or disrespectful to police so why couldn't they approached him in a low key manner and dealt with circumstances as they played out---which eventually proved the kid wasn't involved---there's no reason to scare the crap out of a kid and potentially make him fearful of police...the mom and kid deserve an answer here regarding the way this incident was handled---I like to think a non violent situation with a 13yo kid being aggressively approached and handcuffed isn't standard Evanston Police policy
Mike September 23, 2012 at 10:40 PM
The description was of a black kid wearing cargo shorts. The professor's kid fit that description. That is not profiling, it's just police work.


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