Maia Spoto/Daily Senior Staffer
Mayoral candidate Daniel Biss. Biss said the city should reduce the occupational scope of the Evanston Police Department.
Alex Harrison, Reporter
January 25, 2021
Mayoral candidate Daniel Biss said the City of Evanston should reduce the occupational scope of the Evanston Police Department in an interview with The Daily.
Biss said the role of the police in the realm of public safety has become too broad.
“Over the course of the last really 50 years in American life, we have massively cranked up the number of problems to which we’ve decided that the solution is a guy with a gun,” Biss said. “And it has, most of all, harmed the communities… whose problems are attempted to be solved in the wrong way.”
Biss, a former state senator representing Evanston and a 2018 gubernatorial candidate, is campaigning for Mayor of Evanston in the city’s upcoming municipal elections. He will run against local activist Lori Keenan and recent Evanston Township High School graduate Sebastian Nalls.
To determine what changes need to be made within the police department, Biss said the city needs to conduct an audit of the agency to obtain a complete list of police responsibilities in Evanston.
“Once you’ve said, ‘Okay, here’s what we currently do, that we think could better be done some other way, and here’s what we currently do, that we think needs to be done this way,’ then you need to start building up the capacity to do that first category of stuff,” Biss said.
Biss expressed dissatisfaction with the Northwestern University Police Department’s lack of transparency, particularly in their legal exemption from Freedom of Information Act requests. He said as mayor, he would prioritize removing that exemption. During his time as a state senator, Biss said he worked on legislation that required transparency from private university police departments.
He also commented on the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System, a police coalition that calls itself a “mutual aid group” and was deployed numerous times last fall in response to protests by student group NU Community Not Cops. Viewing them as working in tandem with EPD, Biss said that NIPAS should be subject to the same transparency expected of the city’s police department.
“I think a total transparency about who’s coming into this town, and why, and under whose command, who are they, what are they doing when here, is important,” he said. “As long as residents feel like it’s possible that a sort of unidentifiable police officer from God knows where may show up and be able to exert influence over Evanstonians, that’s going to create a real trust problem.”
Ultimately, Biss said while he would seek to reduce EPD’s budget as mayor, he couldn’t give a specific percentage decrease prior to an audit of police activities.
“I’m confident in saying that we can be spending less on the police than we currently are,” he said. “But the quantitative assessment of what is the exact right number is one that I think it would be a real mistake to pretend I could give you with confidence at this moment.”
Evanston’s municipal primary elections will be held Feb. 23; if no candidate wins a majority of votes, the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election on April 6.
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January 26, 2021 at 12:03AM