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Cedar Rapids Police Chief in favor of lessening possession charge as reforms progress

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 10:59 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cedar Rapids city officials said progress is being made on some of the demands on police reform from the group Advocates for Social Justice, while others can only be changed at the state level.

Tuesday’s meeting with the city council addressed the progress on six of the group’s seven demands. The department had already banned the use of chokehold restraints.

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said the city is hoping to have the structure for a citizen’s review board in place by October 20. The Advocates for Social Justice laid out a detailed plan for such a board in July. Now, the city is conducting a survey of citizens through October 1, seeking input on what they would like to see in the review board. Interested citizens can take the survey on the city’s website.

Jerman revealed that he would be in favor of reducing the level in which marijuana possession offenses would be charged, but that change would have to come through the state legislature.

“I am in favor of lessening the charge of possession of marijuana from a serious misdemeanor category to a simple misdemeanor category," Jerman said. “Such a change would eliminate taking the individual into custody and permit that the subject to be issued a citation instead.”

James Flitz, the city attorney, also said that any changes to qualified immunity for police officers would have to be made at the state level.

Jerman said, in order to meet the demand for more diversity, equity, and inclusion, the police department has added a second mental health liaison just this month. That means there will be a police officer and two mental health liaisons dedicated to responding to people in crisis and to find long-term solutions.

The department has developed a body camera policy that has been reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Jeff Pomeranz, city manager for Cedar Rapids, said that union contracts for the police department are available on the city’s website, helping to fulfill the demand for more transparency in the negotiations between the city and the officers' union.

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