IOWA CITY — Improving community and police relations is as simple as picking up trash in neighborhoods and serving free lunch to those who need it for one Iowa City police officer.
Lt. Denise Brotherton, the Iowa City Police Department’s Evening Watch commander, recently earned the Iowa Police Chief Association’s Leadership in Community Policing Award. Iowa City Police Chief Jody Matherly nominated her for the award after she has increased the department’s positive interactions with community members.
“Her leadership has been contagious for the rest of the officers that work with her. They see her doing the extra things and going the extra mile and her shift tends to do the same thing,” Matherly said. “I’ll show up at an event and there’s officers on her shift that are at the event and truly having fun like she does.”
Brotherton, who has been with the department since 1995, said community policing has always been a priority of hers.
In addition to her neighborhood cleanup and lunch program effort, Brotherton is also chairwoman of the ICPD Disproportionality on Minority Contact Committee and oversaw the start of the B.U.L.B.S! program, which give vouchers to drivers’ whose vehicle lights have gone out, according to a media release from the city.
“Arresting people and law enforcement is just one aspect of the job. That’s what’s great about this work is that it’s not just one-dimensional. You also have the community outreach,” Brotherton said.
Matherly said interaction with the community is important in the current climate because trust in police has been fractured on a national scale.
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This year, 425 people have been shot by police, according to a Washington Post database, Of those who were shot, 20 percent were black, but those who identify as black or African American make up just 13.3 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The national climate has been a disconnect between the police and communities for obvious reasons we see on national news on a nightly basis,” Matherly said. “All police departments, including us, have had to work extra hard to rebuild that trust with the community and that’s important so folks feel comfortable calling us to report crimes.”
Brotherton said community interaction makes the job fulfilling for her personally, but she hopes it can humanize police officers and that they’re partners with residents.
“We’re just not here as watchdogs. We’re also here as your support,” Brotherton said. “It’s a priority for our department and especially the officers that work this Evening Watch to have really embraced this and really take it seriously.”
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