New city proposal could increase transparency for complaints filed against Iowa City police

New proposals being discussed by the members of the city’s Community Police Review Board advocate for the creation of a public database for complaints against the Iowa City Police Department.


Raquele Decker

City of Iowa City Town Hall is seen on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.

Brian Grace, News Reporter

There is a new proposal in response to Iowa City’s ongoing effort to police more equitably, and it could result in increased public access to misconduct complaints filed against the Iowa City Police Department in the form of an online searchable database.

The proposal is a combination of a few different proposed changes drafted by the city’s Community Police Review Board, a city-affiliated group of five board members appointed by the city council. The board reviews complaints of misconduct filed against the police department and submit annual reports to the city on whether or not the complaints should be sustained.

According to the proposal, the database would include all filed complaints regardless whether they were ultimately sustained.

In addition to the creation of a public database, the proposal suggests giving the board access to individual officer records and requiring any complaints filed with the police department rather than with the police review board directly be forwarded to the board within seven days of the complaint being filed.

“One of the things that we feel that’s important is more transparency,” said Orville Townsend, Vice-Chair of the Community Police Review Board. “Since the public is being directly affected by any action that our police officers take that is inappropriate, we feel that if those things are more noticeable and more available for the public to see, then the public has information available to them to make any informed choices that they choose to.”

Townsend said that by implementing a public database the board wasn’t interested in presenting the entirety of the police department negatively, but rather to shed light on patterns of misconduct that may need correction in the future.

“Our police force is doing an excellent job,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of good policemen on our force and we acknowledge that, but we also have to look at the public and individuals’ rights.”

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Police review board member Jerri MacConnell said she was unsure if she supported the implementation of a database.

“The police officers I know hate to write up these reports,” MacConnell said. “If they have them do extra stuff, I just don’t know if it’s necessary.”

Another proposal suggested increasing the total number of board members from five to nine, with a specific focus on appointing representatives from minority populations as well as someone with a background in policing or someone familiar with police policy.

According to meeting minutes from Nov. 10, board Chair David Selmer said increasing the number of members could help split up the board’s writing workload while writing reports and make it easier for the board to reach a quorum.

Though the board decided to keep the proposal, the meeting minutes state some of the members, including MacConnell, brought up concerns regarding increased meeting length.

“Definitely not nine,” she said. “Our meetings are already at least two hours, some of them have gone three hours. If we add more people we could be there all night.”

However, she said it would be a good idea to add either a current or retired police officer to the board.

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague told The Daily Iowan the city council is waiting to make comments on the proposed changes until the Citizens Police Review Board submits its finalized response.