IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Police Department is one of six agencies across the country to be awarded funding to address the response to domestic violence, particularly as it relates to underserved populations.
On Friday, the department announced that it and the five other agencies will receive up to $450,000 from the Integrity, Action and Justice: Strengthening Law Enforcement Response to Domestic and Sexual Violence initiative. The program is being carried out by the International Association of Chiefs of Police with support from the Office for Victims of Crime and in partnership with the National Crime Victim Law Institute, according to a news release.
“We’re extremely excited, to say the least,” said Scott Stevens, the police departments domestic violence investigator. “We’re thrilled.”
Stevens said Iowa City will serve as a demonstration site for implementing the best practices as it relates to responding to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. An emphasis will be placed on eliminating gender bias and addressing the needs of underserved populations, such as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community.
“Biases are something we all have,” Stevens said. “Every person has them, whether they’re conscious and you’re aware of your biases . or they’re subconscious ... and they could potentially change your behavior with a person.”
According to the news release, the department will create “strategies, tools and models of success to serve as a guide for law enforcement agencies nationwide.” Stevens said with the grant, funding for these types of initiatives will no longer be an issue.
“This is a great opportunity for the ICPD to become a leader and model department in responding to domestic violence and providing victim support,” Chief Jody Matherly said in a statement. “We look forward to using the resources and experts provided through this unique experience to their full extent.”
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Stevens said he believes Iowa City was chosen, in part, because of the initiatives they’ve already undertaken to address domestic violence and better serve the LGBTQ community. Johnson County is already a pilot site for the ODARA program, which helps authorities assess a domestic abusers chance of reoffending. The Iowa City Police Department also has officers serving as liaisons to the LGBTQ community.
“We’ve done a lot of good work,” Stevens said. “I think we have a long way to go.”
Iowa City will be in communication with the other five departments chosen as demonstration sites — The Shawnee, Ohio, Police Department; Clark County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office; Denton, Tex., Police Department; Nampa, Idaho, Police Department; and the Vancouver, Wash., Police Department. The International Association of Chiefs of Police also will work with Iowa City police “to identify department strengths, raise awareness of implicit and explicit gender bias, create sustainable strategies, develop partnerships and build community trust, and implement trauma-informed, victim-focused procedures agencywide,” according to the news release.
The demonstration initiative was created after the U.S. Department of Justice called for better policies, training and procedures to investigate domestic and sexual violence and support victims.
“The state sort of has eyes on our community already,” because of the ODARA program, Stevens said. “I see us at the tip of the spear in that regard. This program fits right in with that.”
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