Government

Iowa City Council wants more community feedback on police reform proposal

Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin speaks during a meet and great with the three finalists for Police Chief in Iowa City
Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin speaks during a meet and great with the three finalists for Police Chief in Iowa City on Monday, August 24, 2020. (Nick Rohlman/Freelance)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Council wants to solicit more feedback on a broad plan to restructure the police department.

Last month, Iowa City Manager Geoff Fruin presented his restructuring plan, which included 36 recommendations related to creating a continuum of responses to mental health crisis calls, unbiased policing and moving forward. But, at 246 pages, council members said during Tuesday’s work session they wanted more time to digest the plan and to gather more feedback before discussing it.

“It’s a pretty weighty and detailed document which we’ve been presented,” council member Susan Mims said. “This is a really important process and I think we want to be as expeditious, but also as cautious, as we can.”

Action items within Fruin’s plan calls for diverting calls from police officers to other individuals and agencies, co-responding with representatives from other agencies and stabilizing calls involving volatile situations. He recommended exploring the value of automatic traffic enforcement devices, forming co-response teams with Foundation 2 and Community Crisis Services and expanding the duties of civilian community service officers.

Fruin also recommended additional training opportunities and partnering with community organizations such as the Black Voices Project and NAACP.

With the exception of council member John Thomas, who called diverting calls from police to other organizations a critical approach within the plan and advocated for looking into automatic traffic enforcement devices, the council did not weigh in on the merits of Fruin’s proposals. Rather, the discussion was on how to best reach as many segments of the community as possible.

Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih advocated for having all or portions of the plan — such as the recommendations and key information on each — translated into three languages: Spanish, French and Arabic. Salih said representatives of the immigrant community will feel more encouraged to speak up about the plan if they can do so in their own language.

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The council also discussed hosting work groups or listening sessions to solicit more feedback from the community. Given the breadth of the recommendations, Fruin recommended those listening posts be broken into subtopics to get more specific feedback.

“My fear is that if you just put a call out ... you’re going to get very high-level comments,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s going to be helpful for your deliberations.”

Mayor Bruce Teague called upon Salih and council members Laura Bergus and Janice Weiner to work with Fruin to determine how those listening posts will look. He asked them to return to the Jan. 19 work session with recommendations.

The council also asked members of the public to review the document at icgov.org/preliminaryplan and give council members individual feedback via email or phone calls.

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

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