The city of Cedar Rapids is working to establish an independent citizens review board, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said during a news conference on Friday.
“We understand this step is important to the community, and we are committed to making this happen,” Jerman said.
Iowa City is currently the only city in the state with a citizens review board for its police department.
Creating a citizens review board is one of seven demands a group of Cedar Rapids protesters wants the city and police department to implement. The group — which calls themselves the Advocates for Social Justice — met with city officials this week to begin discussions about their demands. The group organized a protest last Saturday at Greene Square Park and is planning a second protest.
Jerman said the board could look at allegations of misconduct and possibly review various incidents, such as use of force and traffic stop and arrest data. Both the chief and Mayor Brad Hart said there needs to be research done to figure out what the board can do, identify any barriers to creating the board and see what has worked in other cities to make sure the board fits the needs of Cedar Rapids.
Because research still needs to be done, neither provided specific information on when the board might be formed or who would serve on the board.
Jerman said his hope is that whatever is decided will be presented to the Cedar Rapids City Council and be part of the city’s code.
“There are some boards that have been implemented in other jurisdictions across the country that are ineffective and actually failed,” Jerman said. “We’re committed to whatever board is decided on [that] it will succeed. It will be a board that fits what is needed for the city of Cedar Rapids. The barriers that currently exist — that’s what we’re working to identify and navigate through. … Again, we’re not opposed to civilian oversight.”
Iowa City Councilmember Mazahir Salih told the Gazette that Iowa City’s Community Police Review board is “powerless.” One of the demands of protesters in Iowa City is a police review board that has “real power, including, but not limited to, the ability to subpoena officers. The reformed CPRB must also have the ability to enact and enforce measurable consequences when the board recommendations are not followed or implemented.”
During Friday’s press conference, Jerman also discussed some of the policies the police department already has in place.
Protesters have also asked the Cedar Rapids police to ban chokeholds, knee-to-neck maneuvers and strengthen use-of-force standards. Jerman said the police department’s use of force policy already banned chokeholds and other vascular restraints.
“They requested that chokeholds be banned and the knee-to-neck restraint also be prohibited. That is in our current policy available to you right now.” Jerman said. “While the verbiage specifying knee-to-neck is [used] today, prior verbiage restricted vascular restraint, which in some professional circles, that would include any impairment of vascular system. But this morning during our session, they requested that we specifically include in our policy knee-to-neck, and that’s what we’ve done.”
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Jerman said that all Cedar Rapids police officers are equipped with and trained to use body cameras. The officers are required by law to activate their body camera when they have contact with a member of the public or are “taking some sort of enforcement action,” the chief said.
According to Jerman, the cameras start recording 30 seconds before they are turned on and automatically turn on when an officer activates their emergency equipment, such as the lights on top of their squad car.
“Body cameras provide both accountability of police officers and the public. … Body cameras are an important piece of technology that strengthen the relationship between police officers and the community that we serve,” Jerman said.
Jerman said the police department is “committed to listening and finding ways to facilitate continuous improvement.” He highlighted legislation that was passed yesterday by Iowa’s legislature to address police violence.
“These issues are important, and nothing is more important to me and our officers than having the trust of our community,” Jerman said. “All our departments, not just public safety, have an inherent interest in hearing from residents and understanding the issues and barriers they’re facing in the community. We hope to continue this dialogue citywide in the days and weeks ahead.”