116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In my profession as a musician, watching video of my past performance is instrumental in providing insight into what may or may not be working in my favor.
If you watch the video of the June 17 Johnson County Board of Supervisors meeting, you will have many opportunities to witness the ways in which communication may or may not be working between the board and the Sheriff’s Office and also between the board and the community at large.
You might notice on the video that the sheriff either couldn’t or wouldn’t answer whether there is a consistent policy across all of the agencies that share the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP) as to what might constitute appropriate circumstances for its deployment.
On the video, you also will see the sheriff refuse to explain in detail what sort of training is required to operate the MRAP. Either he doesn’t know or he won’t say. Both are bad.
You will see the sheriff dismiss concerns about the weight of the MRAP (26 tons) by stating that it’s “lighter than a firetruck.” The reality is that damage to roads and property is a major reason why many communities have already phased out similar armored transport in their cities.
You will see the sheriff refuse to rule out the use of armored transport in future protest scenarios even though you also will see the sheriff acknowledge that MRAPs have poor visibility, are difficult to operate and there is little reasonable recourse if the vehicle should tip over as they are wont to do.
You will see the board almost unanimously agree, with the exception of Supervisor Jon Green who had the wisdom to take time for further research, to entertain the sheriff investigating a “replacement” vehicle that still looks to the average neighborhood child an awful lot like a tank.
The sheriff has not demonstrated an ability or a desire to be flexible or transparent so it is unfathomable that the board is seriously considering the procurement of more tactical equipment when there is no reasonable oversight in place.
When you review the video from the meeting, you also will see a concerned resident, Dan Kauble, making a well prepared and compassionate statement. You will see Dan sharply rebuked for incivility when he goes slightly over his allotted three minutes regardless of the reality that there were no other community members waiting to speak.
To my view, incivility is more accurately assigned to a public servant standing before you refusing to answer to the community’s concerns. These concerns, it should be noted, are shared by so many communities across our country that there are dozens of ACLU lawsuits on this very topic.
Local police do not need military tactical equipment. Deployment of this equipment creates unjustified and significant risks to physical and psychological well-being.
There are myriad historic and current examples of groups of people such as immigrants, people of color, certain religious communities, political activists and unhoused people who are statistically more likely to be targeted and harmed by police bearing military tactical equipment.
I do not consent to the militarization of our neighborhoods. Several of the board members claim to agree. They have budgetary power. They should use it.
Tara McGovern is a Johnson County resident.