NAACP official: National narrative around policing means Cedar Rapids Police need to do more to gain trust

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 6:54 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - An official with the NAACP in Cedar Rapids said the Cedar Rapids Police Department needs to engage with communities in a positive way more often to increase the likelihood of cooperation.

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said witnesses withholding information is the reason his department has struggled to make arrests related to gun violence last Tuesday.

Denise Bridges, who is president of the African American Family Resilience Association and Education Chair for the Cedar Rapids NAACP, said she wasn’t surprised the police are having trouble getting witnesses to talk. She said she doesn’t see police officers unless they’ve been called to a neighborhood.

“The fact when officers come into our neighborhoods, it’s because there’s a problem,” Bridges said. “But, just to come to ordinary things, you don’t see them that often.”

She said trust issues between people of color and law enforcement agencies are built upon history, anecdotal experiences from others, and data showing people of color are more often pulled over.

Bridges said those fears result in a lack of trust regarding information confidential especially if retaliation is a possibility.

Chief Jerman said retaliation is one of many reasons people aren’t cooperating with investigators. He said he wants Cedar Rapids to be safe, but needs people to talk with the police.

“To build cases based on probable cause, we can’t operate on hunches or opinions or that you know this person may be responsible,” he said. “We need information to be corroborated, and we have to have the evidence and the facts to build a case.”

Bridges said she knows Cedar Rapids Police have efforts like “coffee with a cop” and National Night Out to engage people in the community. But, she said those efforts only hit certain pockets in the community.

Bridges said she believes the police could benefit from engaging black churches or working with other existing nonprofits.

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