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Coralville takes steps to create police advisory board

Cities codifying policies against biased policing

CORALVILLE — A city board designed to analyze police data and help residents address issues of biased policing or racial profiling could soon be a reality in Coralville.

The City Council last week approved the first consideration of an ordinance to address biased policing in the city, according to Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth.

The ordinance — created with help from the NAACP — takes police policies banning racial profiling and ingrains them in the city code.

Coralville’s ordinance also would establish a community policing advisory board, Hayworth said. Once created, the board would review an annual report on police contacts, recommend training to the department and say which police policies should be published online.

“The board also will educate the public about the complaint process and shall offer assistance for people to file complaints in regard to biased policing or racial profiling,” Hayworth said.

Unlike the city of Iowa City, Coralville does not have its own civil rights commission. Instead, the advisory board would help residents file complaints with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

The ordinance also would make a duty to intercede part of the city code. That policy — adopted by area law enforcement agencies this summer — requires officers to intervene in instanced they see fellow offers using excessive force and ensures that officers won’t be discriminated against for reporting racial profiling by a fellow officer.

While adopting the ordinance won’t change any existing police department policies, it “brings the issue to the forefront and makes us all aware of the issue,” Hayworth said.

“You consciously address that,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in our department or with the city consciously wants to discriminate or profile, but it makes you think about it.”

The Iowa City Council will have the first consideration of a similar ordinance during its meeting Tuesday. Like Coralville, Iowa City isn’t changing any police policy, just giving the rules “more significance and more permanence” by putting them in the city code, Iowa City Manager Geoff Fruin said.

“The ordinance makes it explicit in the city code that biased policing is prohibited and racial profiling is prohibited,” Fruin said.

Iowa City’s ordinance also came out of conversations with the NAACP over the last several months, Fruin said.

“The placement in code is a demonstration of the significance we’re placing on this particular issue,” he said.

Both Iowa City and Coralville’s ordinances are modeled after an ordinance adopted last summer in Des Moines. The city of Des Moines also worked with the NAACP on its ordinance.

Fruin said he hopes Iowa City and Coralville adopting anti-profiling measures into their city codes creates momentum for statewide action.

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“I do think there will be other cities taking this step forward, which is hopefully going to create some more awareness and hopefully put this where it belongs, which I think is at the state level,” he said.

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

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