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Iowa City Community Police Review Board formally recommends policy changes

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 4:43 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Members of the public police review board in Iowa City recently voted to send a recommendation containing bias-based policing policy changes to the city’s police chief.

The recommended changes, found on page 90 of the Community Police Review Board’s agenda for their most recent meeting, would affect Iowa City Police General Order 01-01 (Biased-Based Policing), initially issued on January 10, 2001, and reissued in April 2021. The changes seek to alter department policies to “decrease officer interference with the public, shifting ICPD’s focus to ensuring public safety,” according to a statement released by the board. The recommendations largely focus on redirecting police officers’ efforts toward crimes that could pose a broader public safety risk.

A draft of the recommendation, approved on July 13 with three yes votes and two abstentions by the five-member board, makes various changes, including removing language that says “it is the policy of the Iowa City Police Department to patrol in a proactive manner, to investigate suspicious persons and circumstances, and to actively enforce the laws, while insisting that members of the public will only be detained when there exists reasonable suspicion (i.e. articulable objective facts) to believe they have committed, are committing, are about to commit an infraction of the law, or there is a valid articulable reason for contact.” The new language would read “it is the policy of the Iowa City Police Department to interfere with members of the public only when assistance is requested, or when there is an articulable and imminent risk to public safety.”

Another change would add language to bias-related policing policies on traffic stops. It would direct officers to only subject a motorist or pedestrian to an investigatory stop or detention “upon reasonable suspicion that they have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a dangerous infraction of the law,” with the current policy saying “an infraction of the law.” During the meeting, Iowa City Police Chief Dustin Liston pointed out that, under a new state law, local municipalities cannot discourage police officers from enforcing state law.

It would also limit officers from using a police dog to give a “cursory sniff” of a vehicle during a traffic stop unless that vehicle was stopped for suspicion of operating under the influence.

Additional recommended changes would make training on profiling-related topics, interview techniques, cultural diversity, discrimination, and community support required rather than recommended. Training would also include material on the history of bias-based policing and ways to “deconstruct that legacy” going forward.

The board will forward the recommendations to Liston, who will consider them.

The Community Police Review Board was established in Iowa City in 1997 following the death of 31-year-old Eric Shaw in August 1996 after officer Jeffrey Gillaspie shot and killed him in an art studio housed in part of a commercial property owned by Shaw’s father. The officer said he was investigating a possible burglary at the property, and shot Shaw upon encountering him inside the studio. No charges were filed against Gillaspie.

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