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Cedar Rapids City Council selects first nine members for Citizen Review Board

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 7:14 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Cedar Rapids City Council approved the nine members of the new Citizen Review Board during a meeting on Tuesday.

This came a little more than a year after demands for the group came from the Black Lives Matter group Advocates for Social Justice. Its goal is to improve police practices and accountability.

The city council said the group’s action items for the upcoming year include extensive training with CRPD, ride-along and reviews of police data to identify areas for improvement. The group will also be monitoring complaints, community outreach and creation of a long-term plan.

There were 71 applicants for the nine member board. Tuesday’s vote put together a team of five men and four women, with seven out of the nine identifying as people of color.

The nine members will serve staggered terms. Dedric Doolin, Al O’Bannon and Starlet Smith will serve through June 30, 2022, Kelsey Culver, Arthur Kim and Monica Vallejo serving through June 30, 2023, and Aaron Eddy, Lovar Kidd and India Snow-Watt serving through June 30, 2024.

Many of the members of the new Citizen Review Board already have years of experience working to make Cedar Rapids a better place, like Alphonce O’Bannon, Founder and Executive director of Leaders Believers and Achievers Foundation, who said he’s excited about this new opportunity to serve the community.

“That sense of belonging is something that I think some of our younger kids, some people that are of color, definitely look at this and say, hey, I don’t know if we belong here, and on the other side we have to have a sense of saying yes we want you here, and we want you to belong here,” O’Bannon said.

Dedric Doolin, NAACP Cedar Rapids branch president, and a member of the new Citizen Review Board, has been fighting for civil rights since middle school.

“I’ve been concerned about police community relations, I was involved when there was some mediation done with the police years ago when I was a youngster,” Doolin said.

He said while the board is a long time coming, it’s an important step.

“I’m most excited for the community to be moving ahead and looking ahead at some alternatives to make the police, community, relationship better,” Doolin said. “It’s not appropriate for the police just to have positive interaction with parts of the community. They have a responsibility to the whole community. All of Cedar Rapids regardless of race, color, or nationality, religion, they have to be able to interact and work with everybody regardless of what they look like.”

All nine members will complete 40 hours of training, as well as 16 hours of ride-alongs with police.

“Taking a look at the inner workings of the police department, what the structure is, they’ll be hearing from the crisis team, learning about negotiation, de-escalation,” City Program Manager and board liaison April Wing said.

The board will also have two police officer liaisons to serve as resources.

Both Doolin and O’Bannon said they hope to engage the community in their work over the next year.

“I really believe that we can make this community safe for everybody. We can have that kind of dialogue and relationship with police,” Doolin said.

“We have a lot of work still to do to make this a better place, and I wanna make it a better place for all of us,” O’Bannon said.

Wing said the group tentatively plans to start meeting in late July.

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