Iowa City unveils preliminary plan to restructure police department

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 11:20 PM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa City released its preliminary plan to restructure the police department during a city council work session Tuesday.

Change to the police department is one of the agreements city council members made earlier this year, after protests in the summer in Iowa City against police brutality and racial inequities. During the protests, the groups leading them, namely the Iowa Freedom Riders, had called to defund the Iowa City Police Department. The group later modified the language of that demand to restructuring the police department, though some members said that still meant defunding the department.

In outlining the plan Tuesday, City Manager Geoff Fruin said it would restructure the police department more toward a community-policing model.

Fruin presented 36 recommendations from the nearly 250-page plan, “Restructuring the Iowa City Police Department: A Preliminary Plan to Accelerate Community Policing.” Recommendations include police officers carrying Narcan to respond to overdoses, integrating crisis services with the Johnson County 911 dispatch center, and requiring officers to do community service work.

Other ideas are permanently banning traffic stops for low-level violations, like jaywalking, which the department is doing on a temporary basis for now.

The plan would also create more civilian liaison jobs, including positions to work with Iowa City’s homeless and immigrant and refugee communities, and establish a co-response team that would pair mental health professionals with officers when they do respond to calls.

“The presence of the program can also positively influence officer discretion over time,” Fruin said, of the co-response team. “That civilian position can also play a role in training officers, de-escalation techniques, and educating the community about prevention resources and diversion opportunities.”

Another major focus of the plan is on more training for officers. That includes seeking out training and perspective on how police can improve from local groups, such as the NAACP, Black Voices Project, University of Iowa student government, and the University of Iowa athletic department.

“These locally-led training opportunities can be incredibly impactful as the community can describe lived experiences and facilitate open, respectful dialogue with officers in a way that builds understanding, humanizes issues, and quickly influences change,” Fruin said.

The steps outlined Tuesday are preliminary recommendations, though some actions are already in motion after city council members had previously approved those measures, like the co-response team.

Iowa City is looking for feedback on the plan through an online survey and via email.

City council members did not discuss the recommendations during Tuesday’s work session, but Mayor Bruce Teague said they will do so at their next meeting in January.

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