116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - In the months following protests and civil unrest in Iowa City, the City Council has received 88 recommendations related to policing and public safety from three entities.
On Tuesday, council members began taking a high-level look at two sets of those recommendations.
'I would caution us not to get too much in the weeds or to make some judgment calls,” said Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague. 'I think it's really to organize and figure out how we can move forward in the future.”
Tuesday's work session focused on 13 recommended changes proposed to strengthen the Citizens Police Review Board, which were recommended by that body.
The other set of recommendations were the 39 from OIR Group, an independent organization hired by the city to review the June 3 protest in which tear gas and flash bangs were deployed against protesters seeking access to Interstate 80.
Among the recommended changes to the police review bard are giving the it information on how officers are disciplined following a sustained complaint, forcing an officer to comply with a board investigation, allowing a complainant to respond to the police chief's findings related to the complaint, independent audits of the police department's internal investigation procedures, providing complainants with a lawyer, social worker or medical professional to assist them through the process, expanding the size of the board and extending the time frame for when a complaint can be filed.
About a quarter of the recommendations require further legal review before they can be considered by the council. Some however, can be acted upon.
The council expressed interest in expanding the board from five members to seven or nine, with an emphasis on minority representation and having one member have a law enforcement background.
The council also supported extending the statute of limitations on complaints from 90 days to 180.
Among the recommendations in the OIR Group report are updating mutual aid agreements with other law enforcement. While it was Iowa City officers who deployed munitions against protesters, the deployment was at the command of the Iowa State Patrol, which has jurisdiction over Interstate 80.
But City Manager Geoff Fruin said it's too early to update mutual aid agreements when the police department still is refining its own policies governing crowd control.
'In order to really update those mutual aid agreements, we have to know where things stand with a couple of general orders,” he said, referring to the policies related to crowd control.
'I think it would be premature to go out and work on mutual aid agreements when we don't know what decisions you want to make on those general orders. We'd like to present you with some recommendations for changes.”
Other general orders updates include addressing disorderly conduct within protests and use of munitions.
Fruin said city staff needs guidance from the council on protocols related to pedestrians accessing the interstate, although the city does not have jurisdiction over the highway.
'That's a tough discussion you're all going to have to have,” Fruin said. 'We don't unilaterally have the ability to shut down the interstate.”
Council member Laura Bergus called for a 'deep analysis” of the First Amendment and how it relates to protester activity.
The city is rejecting one recommendation from OIR Group that calls for monitoring social media and other resources for potential protest activity. While the police department can dedicate resources in instances when criminal activity is involved, there was no appetite from the council for surveilling First Amendment-protected protest activity.
'We're just not comfortable with that scenario,” Fruin said.
Similarly, Fruin said a recommendation related to establishing created crowd management 'templates” probably was not necessary.
'Candidly, we kind of doubt that this will help,” he said. 'Our experience is each protest is unique in its own way. There's some danger in relying on a template.”
Other recommendations include improving communication - both between law enforcement agencies and law enforcement and protesters - and updating training.
The third set of recommendations - Fruin's preliminary plan to restructure the police department toward community policing - will be discussed at a later work session.
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