Iowa City Community Police Review Board wants one-on-one meetings with police chief

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - With eyes nationally on holding police accountable, Iowa City's unique Community Police Review board is making some changes.

The board is the only one like it in the state that reviews complaints against the police, and now they are planning to make there review more transparent.

Currently, the Iowa City Community Police Review Board submits citizen complaints to the Chief Jody Matherly of the Iowa City Police Department- board members say they trust him to investigate officers thoroughly and accurately.. But if there is a disagreement between the chief's findings and those of the review board, they have never had a chance to discuss it. Now the city council is looking to change that.

"This is absolutely going to enhance the process," Chief Matherly said. "I'm about as excited as they are."

Chief Matherly admits the internal investigation process can be concerning, which is why is not only encourages, but appreciates the community review board double-checking their investigation.

"We investigate our own," Chief Matherly said. "And by the pure nature of that, that's suspicious. And having a set of eyes on that from this commission is important to us."

The Iowa City City Council, along with two other members of the Iowa City Community Police Review Board, encouraged the application of a new ordinance that would allow the review board to meet with the police chief when they disagree on how an investigation went, a move the board's chair, Don King, says he looks forward to taking advantage of.

"This ordinance gives us the option now to have a remedy if we disagree with the chief," King said.

TV9 broke down the numbers of how often disagreements happen. In the last five fiscal years, Iowa City police investigated 28 complaints against officers. In three of those - the board disagreed with the chief's finding. Until now, that is as far as it went. Now, the board wants a chance to explain why it disagrees.

"Even if it's rare we disagree, it's important that when we do that we deal with that appropriately," Chief Matherly said.

Both King and Chief Matherly agree the move is meant to make matters more clear publicly. However, those meetings between the board and chief will be in private- as will any discipline for officers involved.

"Some of the discussion that may have to take place should be behind closed doors," Chief Matherly said. "Because they are still confidential matters at that point."

"I don't think there'd be a real danger if it was open," King said. "But by law, I think it has to be closed."

"We want to make sure the officer's due process is protected, we also want to balance that with the fact that this community member gets answers," Chief Matherly said.

Despite the closed-door sessions, board members like King are optimistic the right decisions will be made moving forward.

"I think [Chief Matherly] is pretty well trusted in the community," King said. "We, as a board, have a lot of trust in him."

The city council has already approved the first of three readings. If approved twice more, the ordinance would go into effect moving forward.