City to contract with outside firm for investigation into June 3 tear gas incident

Iowa City will spend up to $50,000 to conduct an independent investigation into the events of June 3, when peaceful protesters were tear gassed by Iowa City Police and Iowa State Patrol officers.


Kate Heston

Bruce Teague, the mayor of Iowa City, leads the City Council meeting online at 7p.m. on September 1, 2020. Much of the meeting was focused around recent IFR protests and police brutality. Citizens feel the City Council has neglected their wishes. (Kate Heston/The Daily Iowan)

Caleb McCullough, Politics Editor

Iowa City will contract with an outside firm for an investigation into the events of June 3, when Iowa State Patrol and Iowa City Police Department officers used tear gas and flash-bangs on peaceful protesters.

The city will also release a two-hour video including body camera footage from two different officers on June 3, which protesters have been pushing for over the past weekend of protests in Iowa City.

The investigation is one of the items the City Council committed to in a 17-point resolution passed by the council in June in response to protests around the city against police violence and racial injustice. The resolution addressed demands made of the council by the Iowa Freedom Riders, the group organizing the protests.

The City Council unanimously voted to proceed with the investigation at a Tuesday meeting.

“I think we can learn an awful lot from this investigation to inform decisions that we haven’t even thought about,” Councilor Susan Mims said at the meeting.

RELATED: City Council defers Truth and Reconciliation commission resolution, seeks public input on external review of police actions

The review will provide a description of the events leading up to the tear gas being deployed on June 3, the command structure of law enforcement present on the night, the degree and type of force used by both Iowa City Police Department, and whether the actions of Iowa City Police were compliant with police policy.

“It’s truly recreating what happened there. Telling the story of that night. And again, the most important piece is, what do we learn from it?” City Manager Geoff Fruin said at the meeting.

On June 3, the fourth of nightly protests in Iowa City, protesters were tear gassed by a combination of Iowa City Police Department and Iowa State Patrol officers who had set up a barricade ahead of Interstate 80.

The protest had been peaceful until that point, and protesters were chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” when the gas was deployed. Law enforcement said the tactics were necessary to prevent further harm from protesters getting on the interstate.

Since then, protests have continued on and off throughout the summer and over the past weekend, but no more tear gas has been used.

While the firm doing the review will have access to video footage and documents from the Iowa City Police Department, it won’t be able to compel other law enforcement agencies to comply with the investigation, Fruin said.

The firm will submit a public report to the council in 60 to 90 days from the start of the investigation, and the city will be billed $200 an hour up to $50,000.

During the public comment period, 10 people called for the council to release the body cam footage video that Mayor Bruce Teage and Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih said on Aug. 18 showed the State Patrol gave the directive to use tear gas. The video was a major focus of protesters’ demands over the weekend.

“I would like to stress the importance of also releasing that video completely, in its entirety to the public, along with the final report that the external review board comes out with,” UI student Liana Suleiman said during public comment.

City Council was supportive of releasing the video, and Fruin said the city would be able to release it by Thursday.

“This came up for the first time at the last council meeting,” Councilor Janice Weiner said. “Of course it should be released as a matter of transparency. There’s nothing to hide and there’s no doubt in my mind that we should release it.”

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