City Council reviews recommendations for changes to police department

Reviewing 88 items, the council decided whether to pursue legal review, further discuss in a work session, or change a city ordinance regarding the different proposed recommendation items.


Kate Heston

Iowa City’s mayor Bruce Teague holds the online Iowa City City Council Meeting, broadcasted live on Youtube, on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. The meeting covered many topics, ranging from transit updates to police budgeting.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

The Iowa City City Council will resort to legal review and further discussion regarding the 88 recommendations and action items proposed to the city by the Iowa City Community Police Review Board and an independent report of the actions of June 3 — when protesters were tear gassed by Iowa City police and others — from California firm OIR Group.

During a work session Tuesday, the council proposed a change to a city ordinance on a recommendation from the Community Police Review Board to lengthen the statute of limitations for filing a Community Police Review Board complaint from 90 days to 180 days after the alleged misconduct.

Between the external OIR report and the Community Police Review Board recommendations, the City Council reviewed and discussed 88 recommendations and action items proposed to the city.

City staff combed through both the recommendation lists, highlighting which items required immediate council action, future council action, or no action at this time.

Staff also encouraged the council to seek legal advice on several items, which City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes and her staff will review and then present to the council with their advice.

The staff advised that the 13 Community Police Review Board recommendations receive immediate action from council.

The 13 items were designated as either needing legal review, an additional work session to discuss the item, or requesting an ordinance change for the respective recommendation.

The fourth recommendation brought by the Community Police Review Board requested that the city dedicate additional resources to gathering information from social media about community sentiment, activism, and protest activity.

City Manager Geoff Fruin said this is the only one out of the 13 recommendations that the staff recommended dismissing.

“We have a lot of protest activity in Iowa City and we support that,” Fruin said. “I really don’t think we need our police staff dedicated to monitoring social media every time we have a group that wants to gather on the Ped Mall or the Pentacrest. I’m not comfortable with that, I know our police department isn’t comfortable with that.”

Fruin said the staff found many of the 39 OIR recommendations to overlap with each other, with these recommendations only requiring council or staff action or further discussions in a work session rather than needed legal review.

The OIR report included recommendations based on police conduct during Iowa City protests, which Councilors Laura Bergus and Susan Mims said should be discussed alongside the First Amendment rights of protesters.

“I would find it helpful if we have some pretty deep First Amendment analysis relating to protester activity,” Bergus said. “Maybe even just some superficial analysis relating to that but I think, from my experience over the summer, I think there was a pretty wide understanding that all or many of the activities that took place would have been protected under current law.”

Mims also brought up that a clarification of the First Amendment rights of protesters would help both the councilors and public better understand the limitations of these rights.

“There’s the First Amendment and free speech, but that doesn’t mean you can do anything, any point or any time that you want,” Mims said. “There are lines that people cross that they say and think of free speech, but by preventing them from doing it you’re really not preventing free speech, so I think we need a better understanding of those lines.”

The OIR report included recommendations that revolve around improving community outreach, crisis intervention training, annual training curriculum, and crowd control.

Mims said by examining the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred in Iowa City over the summer, the council and city as a whole can pinpoint what needs to change within the Iowa City Police Department.

Mims said she believes the entirety of the council wants to help improve local law enforcement to treat the public respectfully and not discriminate against marginalized identities.

“I do truly believe that all seven of us have the same feeling about what we need to have out of our law enforcement, and what we need to have out of all of our staff as they interact with the public, even though we don’t necessarily all agree on the approach,” Mims said.