Reviews | Community policing reforms won’t work if they aren’t given a fair chance


The first step toward tangible change in Iowa City policing is not possible with the current City Council, Mayor, or Community Policing Review Board system.

In theory, Community Policing Review Boards, or CPRBs, are meant to be representative to ensure the voices of all local people are heard, decisions remain impartial, and community-agreed standards are enforced. fairly.

In 2021, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague say it Cedar Rapids Gazette that abolishing the police in Iowa City is not something he is willing to consider. A majority of City Council members agree with this position.

The exact reasoning behind the City Council’s opposition to the abolitionist work being part of the Iowa City CPRB is unknown. Given the scale of the 2020 Iowa City protests calling for changes in policing and if representation is the goal, abolitionists deserve a seat at the table.

However, representation is often not the reality of CPRBs. Most citizen control mechanisms be co-opted by local police departmentsand their ability to remain impartial when investigating complaints is reduced by internal pressure to side with the police in all cases.

Another key determinant of CPRB effectiveness: Open-mindedness among members of the municipal council, police officers working within a community and members of the community.

Iowa City, although often positioned this way, is not an idyllic haven for progressive thought in the midst of a conservative state. Especially with the current political actors in power, there is no foreseeable way to change this reality.

Based on comments on abolitionist ideology made at the last meeting of the Iowa City Council April 5it seems Iowa City CPRB goes in the direction of police cooptation and performative action.

City council member Pauline Taylor expressed concern that appointing abolitionists to the CPRB would introduce bias into the process, as she imagined it was difficult to set aside personal feelings. Teague mentioned similar hesitations.

If the intent is to eliminate CPRC’s biases, it should be noted that neither party has ever mentioned any hesitation or objection to the long-standing requirement to appoint current or former peace officers to the advice.

Two vacant CPRB positions were discussed at the April 5 meeting, one position specifically for a “current or former peace officer,” as Teague said before individual applications were considered.

Geoff Fruin, Iowa City city ​​manager since 2016, clarified the intent of this qualification.

“It’s not a strict requirement where you have to be a law enforcement officer. Rather, it is a general acknowledgment that someone who has been in the profession or has been exposed to it can bring valuable perspective to discussions that [the CPRB] a,” Fruin said during the meeting.

Fruin also explained that the city council had always tried to have a peace officer or law enforcement representation on the CPRB.

Hearing this made me wonder if the board members understood the true meaning of community-oriented policing and the purpose of CPRBs.

Unsurprisingly, the first candidate to be nominated for the vacant position of former or current peace officer came from a military background. Many board members viewed this candidate’s background favorably, in addition to a professional qualification that could make the candidate ineligible.

One has to ask: is the goal to militarize our local law enforcement? In Iowa City, you could tell, given this recent promotion of adding military experience to the CPRB and the recent battles with the city’s police department over the use of armored ambush vehicles primarily on residents of color in Johnson County.

For those who still believe in the “tough on crime” rhetoric that became popular under the Reagan administration, criminologists have proven militarized police is negative both for the police and for the communities they serve.

If Building Trust and Reducing Crime Are Policing Goals, Militarized Policing and Other Lasting Effects 1930s–1980s reform era police does neither.

In an email I sent to City Council members following the April 5 meeting, I highlighted the history of policing and its relevance to CPRBs:

There was a time before the police, a time when the police were largely corrupt and controlled by politicians, a time when policing was militarized and officers learned to fight crime, and now there is a time where the main objective of the police is to establish mutual trust. and community relations.

It must be recognized that the existence of the CPRBs as well as the abolitionist philosophy are part of this evolution. Dismissing part of the community because of an ideological disagreement is not only biased, but also hinders progress.

Not everyone sees CPRBs as positive progressive action. According to US Department of Justice.

Modern abolition is not widely understood for its purpose of defining a set of steps towards removing punitive goals from the criminal justice system. As an abolitionist, the goals of abolition fit perfectly with a slogan that the police like to use to show their good intentions: to protect and to serve.

The police can be seen as a central element of society from a political point of view and as a corrupt form of dictatorship from the other. However, CPRBs are not political entities.

No matter which side of the aisle you feel most comfortable on, racialized policing, excessive use of force and other potentially deadly law enforcement tactics have never had a their place in the criminal justice system.

If the city council has actually committed switch and not appease the residents of Iowa City through displays of ineffective policies and the creation of boards of directors, then it is a public service obligation to immediately include an abolitionist on the CPRB.


The columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the editorial board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations with which the author may be involved.


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