University of Iowa police talk bias, justice

Discussion of community-police relations set for Wednesday

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IOWA CITY — A thin line can separate black and blue — namely black members of a community and the law enforcement officers who police it.

Walking that line involves balancing what at times has become competing missions to validate black life and enforce the law.

“The relationship between the African American community and law enforcement has been historically grounded in hostility and tension,” said University of Iowa senior Gabrielle Miller, 21. “There needs to be a reconstruction of this relationship that ensures the safety and comfort that African American lives are valued at the same degree as any other citizen.”

Miller, social justice chair with the UI’s Delta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, has partnered with the Mu Delta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity to host a discussion Wednesday with the UI Department of Public Safety they’re calling “A thin line between black and blue.”

UI police community outreach Officer Alton Poole will participate in the event that Miller said will discuss “the reality and results of implicit bias, as well as how to attain procedural justice when found in these encounters.”

The discussion comes after a summer of continued police brutality nationally against black people and the fatal shootings of police officers including five in Dallas. It also follows a hate crime report — which proved false — in Iowa City last spring.

“The thought is it’s the perfect time and it’s the perfect place because we can’t continue to say here at the university that we’re concerned about the needs of individuals or we’re working toward the betterment of individuals when we’re not creating those spaces or opportunities for change to come,” Miller said.

Poole said he also is looking forward to communicating police limitations and legal obligations. He hopes a shared perspective can shed light on decision-making he said can be misinterpreted in the media.

“If we can show them what the law is and what the process is, hopefully they can create a better filter,” he said, adding that he hopes to cross the line suggested by the discussion’s title.

“We want to tear down those barriers,” he said.

Anthony Gair, a UI senior and Hawkeye defensive back, is involved in promoting the event and said he hopes the discussion will make for a safer community.

“It’s important to learn how we can protect ourselves and how police can protect themselves as well,” he said. “Hearing from police officers and hearing from people in the community about what to do and what not to do — it will be helpful for everyone to hear that.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT: “A thin line between black and blue” discussion

WHEN: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: University of Iowa Department of Public Safety, 200 S. Clinton St. Iowa City

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