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Best of the CRANDIC Spotlight: Iowa City Police Log

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Iowa City Police Log social media manager and book author Chris Patton. — Seth Owens

Iowa City Police Log was voted Best Local Twitter Account and Best Local Facebook Page in Little Village’s 2020 Best of the CRANDIC awards.

Long before there was Iowa City Police Log the book (published by Little Village), there was the Iowa City Police Log social media presence (@IC_ActivityLog on Twitter, IowaCityPoliceLog on Facebook), a curation of funny and striking dispatcher summaries pulled from the public postings of the Iowa City Police activity log. Since its founding, the Iowa City Police Log has become so popular it won CRANDIC awards for both its Facebook and Twitter.

Little Village spoke to Iowa City Police Log founder Christopher Patton via email about the Log’s origins.

What year was the Iowa City Police Log founded?

I started the Twitter account in 2013 and the Facebook page in 2015. Probably the biggest thing that got me to do it was the increasing popularity of social media at the time. Without a ready audience it’s highly unlikely I would have spent so much time collecting log entries.

Have you ever gotten feedback from law enforcement on your curation of their escapades? Only a little and it’s all been positive. A few officers have occasionally liked posts and Jody Matherly attended a reading I did at a comedy festival while he was police chief. He laughed along with the rest of the audience and generally seemed to enjoy it.

Any thoughts on the responsibility that the general public bears in terms of “policing the police,” and how the work of the Police Log may play into that?

The public bears complete responsibility for policing the police. As citizens in a democracy we’re supposed to be in charge of our entire government. I definitely have opinions on how we could do a better job of it, such as giving more power to the Community Police Review Board, but the core social commentary in my police log project is focused on the people who are calling the police. The log entries I post are, after all, mostly just dispatchers’ summaries of these calls.

Unfortunately, getting members of our community to stop making calls to the police for racist and/or trivial reasons is probably an even more difficult problem than reforming how law enforcement responds to them.

How did the process of compiling the book affect or give perspective to your initial efforts on the Log?

As I worked on turning my archive of log entries into a book, I read through every entry I’d ever saved. Going back over five years of material in a short period of time reminded me just how frequent certain types of calls are. I had always intended to include some serious calls, such as those pretty clearly driven by racism or prejudice against homeless people, along with the amusing ones about wild parties and delinquent raccoons, but seeing so many of them as I worked on the book reinforced the importance of doing so.

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Artistically, I don’t know. Politically, however, I feel compelled to get more involved in our community. The Iowa Freedom Riders’ protests this summer made me more optimistic about the prospect of police reform, but that’s faded somewhat as I’ve been paying attention to the city council over the last several months.

Now I’m becoming increasingly focused on the 2022 election for county attorney. Electing a more reform-minded candidate who would be willing to do things like stop prosecuting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana would be great. Over the next year, my goal is to help recruit and campaign for such a candidate.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 289.


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