Government

Iowa City Council approves first reading of racial profiling ordinance

Iowa City Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih speaks to protesters June 4 during a Black Lives Matter demonstration against raci
Iowa City Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih speaks to protesters June 4 during a Black Lives Matter demonstration against racial injustice in Iowa City. The Iowa City Council this week unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that elevates police racial profiling and anti-bias policies to city law. (Nick Rohlman/Freelance for The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Calling it an important step in addressing racial inequities in the city, the Iowa City Council this week unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that will make existing biased policing and racial profiling policies part of the city code.

The Iowa City Police Department has policies that ban racial profiling and biased policing.

But after conversations with the state and local branches of the NAACP, City Manager Geoff Fruin said it was important to give those policies “more significance and more permanence” by putting them in the city code. The city council strongly backed the idea in its Tuesday meeting.

“I’m glad to see we’re doing this,” said Council Member Susan Mims. “We’ve had policies in place for quite some time. To raise it to the level of an ordinance, I think, is really important and gives it more prominence.”

The Iowa City Council has vowed to make changes within the city in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests. Among those changes is a commitment to explore how the police department can evolved into a more community policing-oriented model.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done regarding the justice systems and policing, but I think this is a huge step moving forward,” Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih said.

Two members of the public questioned whether the ordinance represented any meaningful change, arguing that addressing individual bias cannot fix systemic problems within policing.

But, Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa and Nebraska NAACP, called ordinances like Iowa City’s a “step” and just one way in which change is being addressed.

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“This is not the endgame,” Mayor Bruce Teague said. “I do believe individual change is most important when we’re looking at policing.”

The city of Coralville also is considering a similar ordinance.

In addition to codifying existing police department policies, Coralville’s ordinance would establish a community policing advisory board charged with reviewing annual reports on police contacts, recommending training and educating the public on the complaint process for those claiming biased policing or racial profiling.

The Iowa City Council on Tuesday also approved the members of its ad hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The commission is tasked with collecting evidence of discrimination and racial injustice, providing opportunities for those impacted by racial injustice to share their stories and identify means of addressing those issues.

The members are Amel Ali, Anthony Currin, Raneem Hamad, T’Shaliyn Harrington, Eric Harris, Layana Navarre-Jackson, Royceann Porter, Kevin John Rivera and Mohamed Traore

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

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