116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - A video clip depicting the arrest of a black teen at the Iowa City Recreation Center last month has caught the attention of city officials.
However, officials said that 36-second clip video clip - which shows the officer kneeling on the 15-year-old suspect and yelling at him to comply with orders - doesn't tell the whole story and that the officer responded appropriately to the incident.
'In reviewing the incident, the Police Department found the officer did not violate the law or department policy,” said City Manager Tom Markus in a July 23 memo to city council. 'However, the Police Department recognizes that the officer moved very quickly to a physical control technique that was likely not the most effective way to have dealt with this situation.”
Additionally, an excerpt of an email from Assistant Johnson County Attorney Pat Weir included in Markus' memo, also states the officer didn't violate the law or policy.
'The video posted on the Internet does not show the full incident - the recreation center video does show the full incident,” Weir wrote on July 21. 'There is probable cause for both charges of criminal trespass and interference.”
The clip, posted to a change.org petition, stems from a June 17 incident at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center. According to a news release from the police department sent out the day after the incident, officers responded to the rec center for a report of a group of juveniles 'disrupting patrons and refusing to listen to Recreation Center staff requests.” Markus' memo states the officer observed five to six juveniles in the stairway of the recreation center and an additional 10 juveniles near the restrooms.
The officer reported seeing one juvenile male in an 'altercation” with two females. The juveniles were ordered to leave the rec center and most of them did, according to the memo. However, the 15-year-old involved in the altercation - who has a prior trespass warning for the recreation center - refused to leave.
The memo states the officer took the teen by the arm and the boy resisted, prompting the officer to take the teen to the ground. The boy - who was not injured - was taken to the Iowa City Police Department, charged with interference with official acts and trespass and released to an adult. Police would respond to more fights that evening in downtown Iowa City, which included individuals who were found to be at the recreation center.
A short clip of the arrest, which only shows the teen already on the ground and the officer kneeling on him, shouting at the teen to put his hands behind his back, was eventually posted online. It is included with a petition that asserts black youth are unfairly singled out and that the recreation center staff shouldn't automatically call police when they feel 'overwhelmed by our kids' playing.” The petition, which had more than 600 signatures as of Friday morning, calls for a review of the arrest and policy changes for both the police department and rec center staff.
'We, Black community members, need our children to be seen as children, and not as criminals,” the petition, which was forwarded to city staff, reads. 'We need them to be treated and provided the same opportunities as white children.”
Markus said in his memo that Parks and Recreation staff have asked police to respond to these type of incidents because they have not been able to handle them in the past. Two parks staff members have been assaulted while attempting to break up disputes, Markus said.
That said, the memo indicates the officer involved in the incident will get additional training on de-escalation techniques and Parks and Recreation staff will receive training on handling future compliance issues at the recreation center.
Weir's email indicated the charges will likely be handled informally through the Juvenile Court Office. Markus' email indicates a rally related to the incident could take place and he expects community comment on the matter at Tuesday's city council session.
'The community may not know all of the details of this incident and therefore may not have the same context that the police and court system is privy to,” Markus wrote. 'Having said that, we need to make clear what further actions the city will be taking.”