Government

Iowa Freedom Riders want $5 million from Iowa City police budget for community response model

Protesters flee as flash grenades are set off on Dubuque Street during a march against racial injustice in Iowa City on
Protesters flee as flash grenades are set off on Dubuque Street during a march against racial injustice in Iowa City on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Police positioned on Dubuque Street used flash grenades and tear gas in an attempt to stop protesters from entering Interstate 80. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa Freedom Riders are calling for $5 million of the over $13 million annual Iowa City Police Department budget to be redirected to addressing community concerns in other ways.

The group — protesters who have taken the mantle of addressing Black Lives Matter movement demands in Iowa City — this week released three new demands in an Instagram post directed to the Iowa City Council and City Manager Geoff Fruin.

In June, the Iowa Freedom Riders presented a wide-ranging list of a dozen demands to the Iowa City Council, including beefing up a community review board of police and reforming its police force.

The City Council endorsed the issues flagged by the group and added more of its own. Among the 17 issues advanced by the council include creating a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” by Oct. 1 to address racial injustices.

“While we are pleased to see work and movement happening around the (Truth and Reconciliation Commission), we have not seen the same level of discussion and progress around our demands for policing in Iowa City,” the group’s new post reads.

The first of the new demands calls on Fruin to prioritize creation of a “Community Wellness & Accountability architecture to address public safety, security, accountability and self-governance.”

The Iowa Freedom Riders’ proposed model would have five teams: mental health, road safety, drug and alcohol, anti-homelessness and interpersonal conflict.

The teams would consist of mental health professionals, social workers, medical personnel and “other peer professionals who are community members and trained to respond to community concerns in non-punitive ways,” according to the group.

The proposal also calls for the model to include city departments that would address affordable housing, income support and job preparation, immigrant and refugee and community wellness programs.

The Iowa Freedom Riders asked that three paid positions be created by the end of September to start implementing the changes.

The Iowa City Police Department had a budget in fiscal 2019 of nearly $13.2 million, according to is annual report. Protesters said the $5 million would come from calls for service that police officers would no longer be required to handle.

The protesters second demand calls for Fruin to get a “clear answer” on who was responsible for the use of tear gas and flash bangs against protesters on June 3.

The council originally demanded a report on that incident by Aug. 1. However, Fruin told the council last month he would need to seek an independent agency to review the incident, which would take longer.

The final demand calls for the creation of a publicly searchable database of complaints against Iowa City police officers and a discussion with the Iowa Freedom Riders and other community groups on repercussions for “officers who have caused harm in the community.” The protesters requested a meeting with city officials by Sept. 1 and a searchable database by Jan. 1.

Currently under the Iowa law governing public records, personnel records on public employees including police officers generally are kept confidential.

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

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