Iowa City Police Department looks to maintain city trust amid Iowa Poll ratings

The Des Moines Register Iowa Poll reports 88 percent of Iowans hold trust in law enforcement. The Iowa City Police Department said it is continuing to work toward earning and maintaining the trust of its community.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa City Public Safety Information Officer Lee Hermiston poses for a portrait at city hall on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (Ayrton Breckenridge/The Daily Iowan)

Arabia Parkey, News Reporter

Despite protests against police brutality in the last year and a half across Iowa, Iowans report significant levels of trust in law enforcement.

On Sept. 29, a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found that around 88 percent of Iowans surveyed strongly or mostly trust law enforcement, with 43 percent strongly trusting and 45 percent mostly trusting. The poll, administered by Selzer and Co., interviewed 805 Iowans aged 18 and older.

Around 90 percent of Iowans identify as white, which was roughly reflected in the Iowa Poll. The poll was conducted to ensure that everyone with a landline or phone had an equal chance to be interviewed.

Iowa City Public Safety Information Officer Lee Hermiston said he believes Iowa City holds trust in its police department, but citizens hold high expectations for law enforcement and will hold the Iowa City Police Department accountable for maintaining trust.

“In recent years, we know that Iowa City has a lot of really engaged and involved people in the community and that we have to earn and maintain their trust, and that’s not something that we take for granted,” Hermiston said.

The Iowa Freedom Riders, an Iowa City-based group that led protests through 2020 and advocates for police abolition, were not surprised by the number of Iowans that continue to hold trust in law enforcement.

“For people who have studied the history of police in this country, this survey response seems correct. This is because police, throughout their history, have existed to protect white people and white property,” the Iowa Freedom Riders wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

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The Iowa Freedom Riders wrote that they recognize the differences in the treatment of people of color by law enforcement, reflecting disparities in the levels of trust in law enforcement by people of color and white people. They wrote that this difference in trust is at an all-time high.

“Polls show that BIPOC folks often feel fearful of police while white people feel protected,” the Iowa Freedom Riders wrote. “This is because BIPOC folks and white people are treated very differently by police, which is also supported by academic research showing that cops are more likely to kill unarmed BIPOC folks including children, more likely to assume they are a threat, and more likely to dehumanize them than white people.”

Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said there will always be disparities between those who trust the government and law enforcement and those who are distrustful, but these departments must continue to strive to create trust.

“We just have to constantly work to do our best to be both trustworthy and try to engender trust, all the while knowing that you’re not ever going to get to 100 percent,” Sullivan said.

For the Iowa City Police Department, the high levels of trust in law enforcement reflected in the poll is encouraging, Hermiston said, but it does not change how the department operates in continuing to earn and keep the public’s trust.

He said the department works with community organizations and the Citizen’s Police Review Board to find ways to obtain the trust of the community.

“I would just say that the police department does a lot to really try to foster trust in our community. We try to be transparent and accessible,” Hermiston said. “We work with community organizations like the NAACP to get feedback on our policies and procedures.”