Government

Cedar Rapids survey seeks input on citizens' police review board

Survey part of City Council's 90-day process to establish panel to hold police accountable

The Cedar Rapids Police Department building in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)
The Cedar Rapids Police Department building in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — City residents will be asked for input about how the city should structure a citizens’ police review board.

Residents can take the survey online through Aug. 31 or by contacting the Community Development Department at (319) 286-5041 to receive a paper copy in the mail, according to a news release. Paper copies also are available at the Ground Transportation Center, 450 First St SE.

The city worked with the National Research Center and members of Advocates for Social Justice, the local Black Lives Matter group that has pushed the city to address seven demands for police reform, to create the survey.

Community Development staffers also are holding focus groups with Cedar Rapids residents and groups this month to gather feedback on the formation of the independent board that will hold police accountable and influence departmental policies.

The Advocates for Social Justice, a group that came together to press the city on police reform after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody May 25, recently unveiled its recommendations for such a panel.

The group, based on its research of other review boards and interviews with civil rights experts, wants the Cedar Rapids review board to have broad powers, including the authority to subpoena witnesses and hire and fire the police chief.

City staff have met with the advocates for their feedback after Mayor Brad Hart and other city officials broke off weekly talks with the group. The mayor and other city leaders pushed instead for a transparent, public input process.

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Council member Dale Todd, one of the city officials who opted to no longer be part of the regular meetings, previously told The Gazette the regular talks broke off when the advocates pushed for Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker to be part of that task force. The council members wanted the group to be citizen-led without involvement from elected officials, Todd said at the time.

Walker has remained involved in the Advocates for Social Justice’s work and was one of the people who primarily prepared the group’s review board recommendations.

The survey is one component of the city’s efforts to address the advocates’ demands for police reform, which the Cedar Rapids City Council committed to address in a resolution passed unanimously June 19. The council set a 90-day timeline to work on the establishment of a citizens’ review board, which is one of the advocates’ seven priorities, and expects to review staff recommendations in the next two months.

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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