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The Cedar Rapids City Council will vote on a citizen review board for CRPD in early 2021

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Protesters march in Cedar Rapids on June 6, 2020. — Jason Smith/Little Village

One of the first items the Cedar Rapids City Council will take up in 2021 will continue work that was started last summer — creating an independent citizen review board in the city.

At the council’s first meeting of the new year on Jan. 12, there will be a motion to set a public hearing so residents can voice their opinions about the city’s plan to create an independent citizen review board, city spokesperson Maria Johnson told Little Village in an email.

The public hearing and first reading of the ordinance are scheduled for Jan. 26, with the second reading scheduled for Feb. 9. It is possible the second and third readings will both happen during the Feb. 9 meeting, but if not, then the third and final reading will be scheduled for Feb. 23.

If approved, Cedar Rapids will be the second city in the state of Iowa with a citizen review board. Currently, the only community in the state with such a board is Iowa City.

Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt said during a council meeting in October there were 166 citizen review boards across the country, and five communities that have a citizen review board and CALEA accreditation. Cedar Rapids would be the sixth.

CALEA — Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies — was created in 1979 as a credentialing authority for public safety agencies.

Creating an independent citizen review board is one of seven demands Advocates for Social Justice brought forward during their June 6 protest at Greene Square Park. The protest was one of hundreds organized across the country following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.

Thousands of people marched through downtown Cedar Rapids on June 6 to protest police violence, racism and the killing of George Floyd. — Jason Smith/Little Village

Timeline of events in Cedar Rapids so far

June 6: The group that would later be known as the Advocates for Social Justice organized their first protest. More than 2,000 people showed up at Greene Square Park to peacefully protest police violence, racism and the killing of George Floyd. It was at this protest that ASJ unveiled their seven demands for the city.

June 12: Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman and Mayor Brad Hart announced the city is committed to establishing an independent citizen review board.

June 13: ASJ organized their second protest.

Protesters marching down Bever Avenue in Cedar Rapids, June 13, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

June 17: Little Village sat down with Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement, defunding the police and his career as a politician. Walker is the first Black person elected to the Board of Supervisors in Linn County and is also a member of ASJ.

June 19: The Cedar Rapids City Council unanimously backed ASJ’s seven demands during a special council meeting. A crowd of about 150 people marched in celebration instead of protest following the council’s resolution.

People marching in Cedar Rapids from city hall to the African American Museum of Iowa on June 19, 2020. — Michael Schodin/Little Village

June 26: ASJ members expressed feeling silenced while meeting with city officials. ASJ and city officials had been meeting for a few weeks to discuss their seven demands, with most of the attention centered on how to move forward with a citizen review board.

July 3: ASJ organized a march to Mayor Brad Hart’s house where individuals used chalk to write messages on public property. It was unclear if Hart was home or not, but no one came to the door, even though the mayor knew marchers were planning to visit his house.

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In addition to leaving signs outside Mayor Brad Hart’s house, people also left a banner with messages and various chalk messages. July 3, 2020. — Michael Schodin/Little Village

July 10: Cedar Rapids officials told ASJ via email they “do not plan to be part of any additional negotiation meetings.”

July 18: ASJ organized the “We won’t be silenced protest,” which was their first event following the email from Mayor Brad Hart about no more negotiation meetings between city officials and ASJ.

The Advocates for Social Justice led a march to Cedar Rapids City Hall on July 18, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

July 27: ASJ publishes their 11 recommendations for what authority a citizen review board should have in Cedar Rapids.

July 28: The city shared information about how the public can get involved in the 90-day public engagement process for creating a citizen review board in Cedar Rapids. The process included a survey and focus groups.

Some of the chalked messages on Cedar Rapids City Hall, July 18, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Oct. 6: City staff reported the results from a community survey conducted to get input from residents about a citizen review board. Slightly more than half of residents who responded to the survey believed the board would have a positive impact on the community. (The city’s 90-day timeline for public input ended up getting slightly delayed due to the Aug. 10 derecho.)

Oct. 20: City staff presented recommendations of what a citizen review board should look like in Cedar Rapids, but the recommendations didn’t give the board as much power as ASJ recommended. City council approved the resolution, which directed staff to create an ordinance based on the recommendations. The ordinance is what city council will take up at the start of 2021.

Protesters in Cedar Rapids marched on July 18, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

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