Joliet Police Chief Evans wants to get past ‘bumps in the road’

New chief says he’s impressed by what he’s seen at JPD

Joliet Police Chief William Evans talks about his first few months on the job as Joliet’s new police chief. Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in Joliet.

Joliet Police Chief William Evans, on the job since March 1, uses the phrase “bumps in the road” when asked about the turbulence and controversy that preceded his arrival.

He is the fourth police chief in less than four years in Joliet.

Evans comes in during an Illinois Attorney General’s Office civil investigation into the Joliet department for potentially unlawful or unconstitutional practices.

The investigation was spurred by controversy surrounding police handling of the January 2020 arrest of Eric Lurry, who died while in custody of what authorities said was a self-ingested drug overdose.

“I tell everybody you can’t judge this organization by a few bumps in the road,” Evans said in an interview this week.

Joliet Police Chief William Evans talks about his first few months on the job as Joliet’s new police chief. Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in Joliet.

Evans pointed to praise from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies after its recent review of the Joliet Police Department.

“They were very complimentary about how we run the organization,” he said, pointing to a door to signify the rest of the department. “That’s all on them. I just got here.”

This is Evans’ first job as a police chief but not the first one he sought.

A former commander in the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, Evans unsuccessfully sought election to the sheriff’s job. He applied for other chief openings and said he did rise high in the selection process at times before someone else was chosen.

“It seemed like in those particular situations they knew who they wanted,” Evans said. “From what I understood about Joliet, they didn’t know who they wanted.”

Joliet was looking for someone outside its own police department, which is one reason Evans said he sought the job.

“And, they wanted someone from a department of 300 officers or more, which eliminates a lot of departments,” he said.

It eliminates Joliet, too, which fell below 300 officers during cutbacks after the 2008 recession. Joliet is in the process of adding police and had 258 officers after 14 were hired in August.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Department had 600 officers, Evans said.

“A lot of the things they do here, we did there,” he said. “It wasn’t a complete culture shock coming here.”

Evans said he’s been impressed by the level of training in the Joliet Police Department and the expertise of the staff.

“When I came in here, I had a lot of fresh ideas that I thought we’d be able to implement,” he said. “They do a lot of things right here. There are going to be some changes here. But they’re not going to be sweeping changes.”

Evans does not know what to expect from the attorney general investigation and said investigators have not given any indication when it will be completed. However, he said he believes Joliet can make any changes that might be required.

“I have a lot of faith in this department,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in the mayor and city manager.”

Joliet Police Chief William Evans talks with the former interim Joliet Police Chief Robert Brown at the Joliet City Council Meeting. Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2022, in Joliet.

The command staff of deputy chiefs that was in place when he arrived will remain, he said.

Evans said he met his predecessor, Dawn Malec, in passing, but has not talked with her. Malec was demoted to lieutenant in October by City Manager James Capparelli, who tried to fire her, but learned that was beyond the scope of his authority.

“I don’t know Dawn Malec, and I don’t know what her situation was,” he said. “I hear nothing but good things about Dawn Malec.”

Evans said he makes an effort “to go out and introduce myself to the rank and file.” A random officer is selected each week to meet with him on Friday in his office.

“It’s my way of getting to know the people and getting to know the organization,” he said.

Joliet Police Chief William Evans goes through emails. Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in Joliet.

So far, he’s felt welcomed in the department.

“My impression is they are hoping that some of the issues – some of the bumps in the road – that have occurred in the last two or three years will go away,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to see that they do.”