News

Video of tear gas being used on Iowa City BLM protesters could be released this week

City council decides to move forward with independent review after previously balking at idea

Protestors stand by as flash grenades are set off on Dubuque Street during a march against racial injustice in Iowa City
Protestors stand by as flash grenades are set off on Dubuque Street during a march against racial injustice in Iowa City on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Police positioned on Dubuque Street used flash grenades and tear gas in an attempt to stop protestors from entering Interstate 80. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Video of the June 3 protest that involved law enforcement using tear gas and flash bangs against protesters could be released as early as Thursday.

An independent review of that incident is on its way, as well.

Two weeks ago some city council members balked at the idea of an outside agency’s review of the June 3 event, arguing it was clear who made the call to use crowd control devices — the Iowa State Patrol, according to Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague — and that the anticipated $50,000 price tag for the review could be better spent elsewhere. During Tuesday night’s formal meeting, the council unanimously called for the release of the video and an independent review.

“I wasn’t thinking that we needed the review,” Teague said Tuesday in a council meeting that stretched past midnight. “If it’s just ‘Who did it?’ — We can tell you who made the call. ... After much consideration, I believe we should go forward with the review.”

The city will enter into a contract with the California-based OIR Group to conduct the review. The city will be billed for the investigation at a rate of $200 per hour with the total cost not to exceed $50,000. Only the Iowa City Police Department’s involvement in the June 3 will be reviewed and the city cannot compel other law enforcement agencies, such as the state patrol, to participate in the review.

The review would result in a public report on the incident within 60 to 90 days from the beginning of the process.

The city council on June 16 passed a resolution responding to the demands of Black Lives Matter movement protesters. Included in that resolution was a review of the June 3 protest, which was to be complete by Aug. 1. However, that time line became longer when it became clear the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation could not do the investigation and a review by an outside agency with no affiliation with the city would be necessary.

“The dates we put in turned out to be unworkable,” said council member Janice Weiner.

Council member Pauline Taylor said she had been told the video in question is about two hours long. Council member Susan Mims said there are “many” videos from that night and each are about an hour long. Mims said she’s watched two such videos.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“They will give different views depending on which officer’s bodycam you watch,” Mims said.

The council deferred voting on the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Councilors Weiner and Laura Bergus have drafted a resolution outlining the scope of the commission, but said Tuesday they had received a series of proposed amendments from the Iowa Freedom Riders — the group representing the local Black Lives Matter Movement. The council called for more time to merge the original draft with the proposed amendments and put that forward for review at a later meeting.

City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said she had some issues with the proposed amendments. Dilkes said the amendments included potentially unlimited mandates as well as the power to spend money enforcing those mandates.

“In terms of unlimited authority to create a mandate or spend money for what those mandates may be — I think that’s problematic,” she said.

The city council on Tuesday agreed to host a series of events with the goal of getting community feedback on how the public would like to see the police department potentially restructured. The council also voted to approve a resolution eliminating one open police officer position in favor of a victim services specialist position within the police department that would be filled by a civilian social worker.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.