Government

Iowa City manager commits to change in response to Black Lives Matter movement

Geoff Fruin stands in 2016 by the Washington Street Streetscape construction project in downtown Iowa City. (The Gazette
Geoff Fruin stands in 2016 by the Washington Street Streetscape construction project in downtown Iowa City. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa City Manager Geoff Fruin, committing to bring change to the city, issued a statement Wednesday throwing his support behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The road is unpaved and without signage,” wrote Fruin, who is in charge of the city government’s daily operations and serves as the police chief’s boss.

“Our elected leadership will shape this process, and I know they will do their very best to create inclusive, communitywide forums for all voices,” he said. “My commitment to the Iowa City community, the city council and our staff team is that you will have my unwavering support as we work collectively toward this goal.”

Fruin’s statement comes a day after the Iowa City Council committed to acting on demands of the Iowa Freedom Riders, which has taken on representing protesters. The council called Tuesday for the creation of an independent commission to study those demands and make recommendations to area municipalities.

In the short term, the council is expected to review citations and tickets given protesters, explore opportunities for public art and urge law enforcement agencies to get rid of an armored transport vehicle.

Fruin said the Black Lives Matter movement is getting “attention that is long overdue.” Recent events in Iowa City have caused him to think about racial injustice and his role in addressing it in Iowa City, he said.

“As I have had a chance to step back and try to absorb what is happening here in Iowa City, I realize that I have not adequately acknowledged the depth of the racial injustice now being expressed in our community,” he said.

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“I have not done enough to seek out the voices that have been suppressed,” he said. “I have not pushed hard enough for our local government to proactively address racial inequalities. … As city manager, these responsibilities fall on my shoulders, and I accept accountability.”

Fruin said the challenge of addressing inequality includes looking at housing, education, health care and economic opportunity and “so much more,” but acknowledged that policing has been at the forefront of discussions following George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

While “reform of the police industry is needed,” Fruin said in his statement that Iowa City police are up to the task.

Fruin said he meets with each officer, sits in on complaint interviews and observes the force’s work on a daily basis.

“The men and women of our police department are phenomenal, caring people and contribute positively to the community in so many ways, both on-duty and off-duty,” he said.

Fruin said the police department has worked to better serve the city’s homeless population, victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and the LGBTQ community.

Police have “unquestionably demonstrated that they can be a part of accelerating our community toward some of our most complex problems and will be open to doing so with the aid and support of all members of the community.”

At the same time, Fruin said that neither he, police nor any other city staff member are “mistake free.”

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Fruin’s statement ended with a commitment to working collectively on the goal of addressing racial inequality.

“I will continue to work hard, with eyes open wider, with a willingness to engage in tough discussions,” he said. “I will support our staff and our community as we push forward. I don’t just work for Iowa City, I love this community with all my heart and am 100 percent committed.”

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

Fruin’s statement

The world changed on May 25, 2020, when George Floyd was murdered on the streets of Minneapolis by police officers. George Floyd and his family deserve justice. More importantly, George Floyd and his family, along with the entire Black community across this globe deserve tangible change from their government. The ensuing protests and demonstrations have already had a profound global, national and local impact. The Black Lives Matter movement is finally getting the attention that is long overdue.

I have been in the city management profession for 16 years. My job as City Manager is quite simply to lead, motivate and support a staff team with an unwavering commitment to public service. On a daily basis, I have worked earnestly to advise elected leaders and community stakeholders on how to reach their goals and express their values through our city operations. As I have had a chance to step back and try to absorb what is happening here in Iowa City, I realize that I have not adequately acknowledged the depth of the racial injustice now being expressed in our community. I have not done enough to seek out the voices that have been suppressed. I have not pushed hard enough for our local government to proactively address racial inequities. It should not take murder or protest to demand change. As City Manager, these responsibilities fall on my shoulders and I accept accountability.

This last week much of the nation’s and our community’s focus has been on policing. Reform of the police industry is needed, but the challenge facing us is far greater in magnitude. Housing, education, health care, economic opportunity and so much more, are the roots of the issue.

I have come to know our individual police officers over my tenure with the City. I meet with each one on the day they are hired, I have scheduled impromptu meetings with officers, I sit in on complaint interviews of officers and I observe the impact of their work in our community every day. The men and women of our Police Department are phenomenal, caring people and contribute positively to the community in so many ways, both on-duty and off-duty.

I have full confidence in their ability to carry out the Department’s mission “To work in partnership with the community, enhance trust, protect with courage and compassion, and empower victims of crime through excellence in service.” In recent years, they have been instrumental in pushing forward change to improve homeless services, advancing services for victims of domestic violence, improving response and services available to those with mental health challenges, rooting out human trafficking in our community, building relationships with the LGBTQ+ community, and more. They have unquestionably demonstrated that they can be part of accelerating our community toward solutions for some of our most complex problems and will be open to doing so with the aid and support of all members of the community.

Our police officers are not mistake free, nor am I or any other city employee. Our officers deserve to be held accountable when they make mistakes. I deserve to be held accountable when I make mistakes. The values of the Police Department come from the City Manager and the Police Chief, who I appoint and the City Council confirms. The training budgets and programs are set by city management, and the operational resources are provided through my approvals. I am committed to deep introspections with the community on what we want our Iowa City Police Department to look like going forward. I have full confidence that our police staff are not only up for the challenge, but that they will necessarily be a critical ingredient to the solution as the community looks to heal and moves forward together as one.

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The work ahead is both immediate and long-term, and is certainly much more expansive than policing. The road is unpaved and without signage. Our elected leadership will shape this process and I know they will do their very best to create inclusive, communitywide forums for all voices. My commitment to the Iowa City community, the City Council, and our staff team is that you will have my unwavering support as we work collectively toward this goal. I will continue to work hard, with eyes open wider, with a willingness to engage in tough discussions. I will support our staff and our community as we push forward. I don’t just work for Iowa City, I love this community with all my heart and am 100% committed. I know our city staff team is equally committed as well.

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