City of Cedar Rapids creates survey to get input from residents about citizens review board

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

The city of Cedar Rapids launched a survey for residents to provide input about a citizens review board and information about their interactions with the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

Residents can take the 10-question survey through Aug. 31. The survey is online, but paper copies are also available. Anyone wanting a paper copy mailed to them can call the Community Development Department at 319-286-5041. Paper copies are also available at the Ground Transportation Center, 450 First St SE.

The survey asks questions about locals’ experiences with the CRPD, how many interactions have they had with the CRPD, what impact a citizens review board will have on Cedar Rapids, among others. Five of the questions are about the respondent, including length of time living in Cedar Rapids, zip code, race/ethnicity, age and gender.

The survey is part of the city’s 90-day process to establish a citizens review board. The city worked with members of the grassroots group Advocates for Social Justice and the National Research Center to develop the survey, according to a city news release. The city also has an online form where people can submit their input and ideas.

Creating an independent citizens review board is one of seven demands ASJ brought to the city. The demands were announced during the group’s first protest on June 6 at Greene Square Park.

Police Chief Wayne Jerman and Mayor Brad Hart announced on June 12 the city is working on establishing a review board. A week later, during a special meeting on June 19, the city council unanimously backed addressing the seven demands.

Most of the attention so far on ASJ’s seven demands has focused on the citizens review board. At first, city officials had plans for a task force to provide input and research for the board, which was discussed during a June 26 meeting between ASJ and Cedar Rapids officials.

In late July, ASJ published their research and recommendations for what a citizens review board should look like. The 18-page brief included 11 recommendations about the board’s authority, membership and resources, as well as how race needs to be “at the center” of discussions.

ASJ co-founders Leslie Hauskins (left), Tamara Marcus (right) and Nicole LeGrand (not pictured) have been organizing protests since June. Photo taken during the group’s July 18, 2020, protest in Greene Square Park. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

The city’s 90-day plan has three main parts: process development, public engagement and results. City staff shared details about the process during a Cedar Rapids City Council meeting on July 28. City staff has met with ASJ after Mayor Brad Hart said he and other city officials “do not plan to be part of any additional negotiation meetings.”

Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt said during the council meeting that the city’s primary goals in creating a citizens review board are to ensure law enforcement accountability, bolster confidence in police, increase and improve public cooperation, and make the community safer for everyone.

The purpose of a board is to “create an independent body to influence and change police practices, to ensure community law enforcement is constitutional, effective and responsive to standards, values and needs of those to be served,” said Bill Micheel, Community Development assistant director.

In addition to the survey, the Community Development Department will be holding focus groups throughout the month of August. Micheel said the groups of about 10 people will meet via Zoom.

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“The purpose of the focus groups is to take a bit of a deeper dive in with some of those groups,” Micheel said during the July council meeting. “It’s a facilitated discussion to better understand interests. What activities should this board engage in? What authority should it have, board representation and, again, searching out that mix of perspectives.”

Results from the survey and focus groups are scheduled to be shared at the Cedar Rapids City Council meeting on Aug. 25.