Evanston cops change policy in wake of ‘problematic’ arrest video
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An Evanston man who is suing the suburb’s police department for excessive use of force and false arrest is citing newly released police-dashcam video as evidence to attempt to bolster his case.
In a prepared statement accompanying the video, an Evanston police spokesman acknowledges there are elements of the video that are “problematic” and that the department is making changes as a result. But an internal investigation, the spokesman also said, has concluded that the officers’ actions complied with department policy.
The lawsuit stems from a 2015 traffic stop in which Lawrence Crosby was pulled over for suspected auto theft while driving his own car to Northwestern University, where he was pursuing a graduate degree.
Evanston police released video recordings of officers arresting Crosby this week. The video also included audio of a call made to a 911 dispatcher reporting a man stealing a car — and audio recorded by Crosby’s own dash-mounted camera inside his vehicle.
Crosby was stopped in the 1500 block of Ridge Avenue in Evanston about 7 p.m. Oct. 5, 2015, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.
In the video, a woman calls police to report an African-American man in a hoodie who looked like he was breaking into a car at Sherman Avenue and Seward Street in Evanston. She tells the dispatcher the man was standing by the car with a long bar in his hands, and looked like he was trying to pry open the door.
“I don’t know if I’m racial profiling,” the woman says to the dispatcher. “I feel bad.”
Crosby’s attorney, Tim Touhy, said his client left his apartment in Evanston, fixed a piece of loose molding on his car and was driving to Northwestern University — where he was pursuing a doctorate in engineering — when he was pulled over.
When Crosby drove away, the woman followed him in her own vehicle and continued to report his location to police, who pulled Crosby over a short time later.
The video shows that once his car is stopped, Crosby gets out of the vehicle with his hands in the air and tells officers he owns the car. The officers shout at Crosby, approach him with guns drawn, and pull him to the ground. They place him in handcuffs as he continues to tell them that he owns the car and has documentation for it.
Later, when officers learned that Crosby was the registered owner of the car and had a valid license, they decided to charge him with disobeying a police officer and resisting arrest, Touhy said in a statement. Crosby was acquitted of the charges on March 9, 2016, in Cook County Circuit Court.
The five-count suit accuses the officers of malicious prosecution, battery and use of force, failure to prevent battery and use of force, vicarious liability and conspiracy. It names the City of Evanston and four police officers as defendants.
The video released by the Evanston Police Department begins with a statement by Evanston Police Sgt. Dennis Leaks, who said the officers’ actions were reviewed by the police chief and the department’s office of professional standards.
“It was determined that the force used in this incident was in compliance with our procedures as it pertains to this type of situation,” Leaks said. “However, in reviewing this incident, we’ve also determined that we will no longer require subjects to be proned during these types of stops, as we acknowledge and realize that there are some problematic issues that come with that: locations of the stop, weather conditions and it gives a bad perception.”
Before the clip moves on to recordings of the 911 calls and video footage of the encounter, Leaks adds, “It should be noted that the subject in this video sustained no injuries as a result of this stop.”
Evanston police spokesman Cmdr. Joseph Dugan said he could not comment further because of the pending lawsuit against the city.
Other Evanston officials were not immediately available for comment.