A West Side alderman and a police commander on Wednesday each defended his actions in a heated confrontation that ended with a warning for the alderman to leave a police parking lot or get arrested.
But both also were ready to put the strange episode behind them.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said he visited the Harrison District station last Thursday afternoon to try to meet with the new commander, Glenn Evans, to ask him to lunch and attend a community meeting.
Ervin said he decided to go to the station for an unscheduled meeting after several calls to the commander went unanswered.
The alderman said he was waiting with Austin District Cmdr. Barbara West, who arrived separately.
When the commander came out of his office, he said he could not stay because of an emergency, Ervin said.
Ervin acknowledges he watched the commander leave, jumped into his city-owned SUV and drove into a garage attached to the police station to speak to Evans.
Ervin insists he didn’t block Evans’ car. But police sources said the alderman parked across the exit to the garage, preventing anyone from leaving.
In a heated exchange, the commander told the alderman he would be locked up for trespassing if he didn’t leave — and Ervin left, sources said.
Evans is one of police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s rising stars because of his work in driving down violent crime in the Grand Crossing District, where he was assigned before he recently became commander of the Harrison District.
Rank-and-file cops have hailed Evans’ move to the West Side because he’s known for not kowtowing to politicians and preachers.
“I work for the police department and the city,” Evans said Wednesday in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “Their interests come first. I ultimately answer to the superintendent and the mayor.”
Still, Evans said he had a “good rapport” with aldermen on the South Side when he was the commander of the Grand Crossing District there.
The day after the confrontation, Ervin and Evans met to work out their differences.
“This thing was blown out of proportion,” Evans said. “The situation rectified itself, and we have a working relationship.”
That doesn’t mean he approves of what happened in the garage.
“Once I said I have to go, there is no reason to follow me out to a garage and force a meeting, especially if you know how to find me,” he said. “It’s not the way I’m used to doing business.”
Ervin, meanwhile, said he was surprised by the commander’s reaction in the garage.
“I wasn’t trying to control anyone,” he insisted. “He said I had no respect for him, black commanders or white commanders, and my father should have taught me better. I just shook my head. His state of mind didn’t make any sense and I left.”
Ervin’s father was commander of the Harrison District in the 1990s. He and Evans are both African American.
The alderman said he couldn’t have been charged with trespassing because he was an official in the garage on official business.
Cops in the Harrison District said they supported the commander for the way he dealt with the alderman last week.
“It sounds really nice — that the alderman was only going there to buy the commander lunch. No. You were trying to buy him. Big difference, buddy. Jason Ervin went there with the idea that he was going to intimidate, get the commander to be on his side, have him in his pocket,” Harrison District Officer Erick von Kondrat said.
Four year ago, von Kondrat ran for alderman against Ervin, the former Maywood village manager who got a leg up on his opponents when Ald. Ed Smith (28th) retired in January 2011 and convinced then-Mayor Richard M. Daley to appoint Ervin as Smith’s successor.
McCarthy and Ervin engaged in their own heated exchange in October during City Council budget hearings. Ervin complained that the number of blacks in the department’s exempt ranks declined during McCarthy’s tenure. McCarthy defended his record, saying promotions under his control have involved a larger percentage of African Americans than the department as a whole.
At the same hearing, Ervin groused that McCarthy had installed a white commander, James O’Grady, in the predominately black district. When O’Grady retired in November, Ervin demanded McCarthy install a black commander in the district.
Last month, Ervin apologized to constituents for a video on YouTube of a 2012 bachelor party featuring strippers that was held on another floor of a building that includes his aldermanic office. Ervin insisted he didn’t use city or campaign funds to pay for the party.