Cedar Rapids Update on BLM Priorities
Cedar Rapids City Council passed a resolution on June 19, 2020 officially declaring their support and commitment to addressing priorities brought to the City through the local Black Lives Matter Movement and Advocates for Social Justice. At the meeting, City Council approved and agreed to move forward on addressing all seven priorities. On September 22, an update was provided to Council and the public on all seven demands. The City has completed work on all seven, acknowledging that some additional work will continue, and that there are some items that are not within the purview of city government authority, but rather are dictated by State and Federal law, the Police Officer Bill of Right, etc.
Form an Independent Citizen’s Review Board
The City of Cedar Rapids committed to establishing an independent Citizen Review Board (CRB) to further community relations and police accountability. An ordinance outlining the formation and duties of the CRB was completed and approved by the Cedar Rapids City Council Feb 9, 2021. The ordinance was the culmination of months of work and collaboration, including resident focus groups, community surveys and feedback opportunities, and direct work with the local Advocates for Social Justice (ASJ) group. The City and ASJ also worked with the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) to develop the final Cedar Rapids ordinance draft.
Starting the week of February 15, the City will launch a communication effort to encourage residents to apply for the Citizen Review Board. Applications will be available on the City’s website, along with details about the training and time commitment. Applications will be accepted through May with Board appointments in June 2021. We will be working closely with non-profits and other local agencies to increase the network and attract new applicants. This is an exciting opportunity to amplify the voice of those under-represented in our community.
Make Significant Investments in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The City and Police Department has made significant investments in making our community welcoming and inclusive.
- Police officers participate in annual implicit bias training and participate in citywide diversity training with all City employees.
- All City employees participate in training programs to eliminate physical and communications barriers in city infrastructure, facilities, and programs.
- The Cedar Rapids Police Department has a Mental Health Team made up of a Mental Health Officer and two Law Enforcement Liaisons. The Law Enforcement Liaisons are mental health professionals who are employed through Foundation 2.
- The City provided funding and support to the Safe, Equitable, and Thriving Communities Task Force, better known as the SET Task Force. The City continues to fund the work of the SET, and the mayor and council member Todd are members of the policy board. The City and Police Department are providing data and staff are partnering to improve economic opportunities, educational success, and better access to youth programming and services.
- The City is committed to hiring a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager who will be dedicated to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion priorities within the City organization. An executive search firm is currently working to help recruit qualified candidates. The City has been working on a position profile and recruiting materials in an effort to recruit many qualified candidates for this important position. The individual selected will lead efforts to promote and enhance diversity within the City organizations through programs, training, and services. The position will be posted this month (February 2021).
Ban Chokeholds, Knee-to-Neck Maneuvers, Strengthen Use of Force
The Police Department’s Use of Force policy prohibits maneuvers that would inhibit an individual’s airway, including chokeholds or knee-to-neck maneuvers — unless deadly force is justified.
- Officers receive regular training in de-escalation techniques, including tactical communications training that provides necessary skills to redirect behavior and generate voluntary compliance, which increases personal safety and enhances professionalism.
- The Police Department’s Use of Force policy requires a Duty to Intervene. Any officer who witnesses another officer, acting in their official capacity, use force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances, is required to intervene.
- The Police Department is open and transparent about policies and procedures. Nearly 100 policies and directives are available for the public to review on our website at www.cedar-rapids.org/police.
Impose Strict Body Camera Provisions
All Cedar Rapids police officers are equipped and trained to use body-worn cameras, and the Police Department adheres to a comprehensive body camera policy adopted in 2018. The Police Chief’s Advisory Committee provided input and reviewed the policy, as well as the United States Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Uniformed officers that have contact with citizens are assigned a body camera. The policy requires officers in uniform and assigned a body-worn camera to wear the camera for the entire work shift, during uniformed departmental overtime, or uniformed extra work assignments. Body cameras are interoperable with the in-car camera system. The policy requires the officer to activate the body worn camera to record all contacts with citizens in the performance of official duties. The camera must remain active until the event or interaction is completed in order to ensure the integrity of the recording.
Decriminalize Marijuana and Other Low-Level Offenses
The Cedar Rapids City Manager, City Attorney, Chief of the Police Department presented an update on this topic to City Council on September 22, 2020.
One of this year’s legislative priorities for the City is the request that the State make minor marijuana offenses a simple rather than a serious misdemeanor. This will allow the PD to cite the offender, but not have to take them into custody. We have met with our local delegation and they are all supportive of the request.
Currently, possession of marijuana is classified as a serious misdemeanor in the Code of Iowa. Due to marijuana possession being a serious misdemeanor, Iowa Code 690.2 requires violators to be fingerprinted and photographed, and then subject to an initial appearance (arraignment) before a magistrate or judge.
If clear possession of marijuana is not established, police officers may take the marijuana as “found property” because it is illegal to possess, but not charge any individuals. For example, in 2020, there were 321 marijuana-related items turn in for found property for destruction were no charges were filed. In 2019, there were 189 marijuana articles turned in for disposal. In 2018, there were 213 articles.
The Iowa legislature is responsible for determining the severity of drug manufacture and possession charges in state statutes. The City is committed to working with our legislators with recommendations from our community.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department has also been working with the Linn County Attorney’s Office concerning the prosecution of marijuana crimes. The Linn County Attorney’s Office announced a newly established marijuana diversion program that was effective January 1, 2021.
Making Negotiations between Law Enforcement and Municipal Representatives Public
The Cedar Rapids City Manager, City Attorney, Chief of the Police Department presented an update on this topic to City Council on September 22, 2020.
The City supports transparency with regards to negotiations between law enforcement and municipal representatives. The collective bargaining agreement is publicly available on the City’s website.
Negotiations between the City and the union that represents the Cedar Rapids police officers must occur as provided by state law, Iowa Code Chapter 20. This state law requires negotiations on some terms of employment, and prohibits negotiations about others. Iowa Code Section 20.17 provides that some of the proceedings must be open to the public, while others are specifically exempt from Iowa’s Open Meetings Law, Iowa Code Chapter 21. Iowa Code Section 20.17(3) requires the City and union to exchange initial proposals during meetings that are open to the public. The negotiation sessions that occur thereafter are specifically exempt from the Open Meetings Law.
These negotiations focus primarily on wages, benefits, and to a lesser extent, items related to working conditions. The negotiations are conducted by representatives of the City and the Union. Members of the City Council do not participate in the negotiations. Chapter 20 does provide however that once a proposed and tentative agreement is reached by the bargaining representatives, the proposed terms shall be made public. The City Council takes action on a proposed collective bargaining agreement during an open meeting which is preceded by a posted agenda which specifically lists the consideration and action on a proposed agreement. Any member of the community may appear at a City Council meeting and be heard on the proposed agreement.
Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine established by the courts, including the United States Supreme Court. The City does not have the ability to change this legal doctrine.
Qualified immunity provides police officers with protection from civil lawsuits so long as their conduct does not violate clearly established law or constitutional rights of which a reasonable officer would have known. Qualified immunity does not prevent individuals from recovering damages from a police officer who knowingly violates clearly established statutory or constitutional rights. The City is committed to recommend and develop meaningful solutions for accountability. Currently, there is an internal review process for all officer misconduct complaints that is in compliance with CALEA standards. Further, an individual who has a grievance could also file a complaint with the State Ombudsman’s Office, State Civil Rights Commission, or file a lawsuit.
Timeline of Police Initiatives
The timeline below shows CRPD has worked for years, and beyond the community requests in order to serve the residents and visitors of Cedar Rapids. The City is proud of our Police Department, as one of only five percent of police departments in the country that has gone through the rigorous process to be CALEA accredited. This means CRPD meets or exceed the highest national standards in law enforcement.
October 2013 – Crisis Intervention Team formed with four officers receiving training and developing a team model.
February 2017 – Crisis Intervention Team expanded with additional officers, for a total of 13 officers as part of the team.
September 2017 - City solicited a request for proposals for body worn cameras. The Police Department also developed a body camera policy.
October 2017 – The Cedar Rapids Police Department received a grant to facilitate enhanced collaboration with Foundation 2 to increase access to mental health and other treatment services for individuals with mental illness or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, including funding to hire a Law Enforcement Liaison.
February 1, 2018 – Law Enforcement Liaison begins working out of the Police Station and responding to mental health crisis calls for service with officers.
July 9-13, 2018 – CRPD completes roll out of body camera program with body camera policy that exceeds national standards and was reviewed by the Police Chief’s Advisory Committee, the United States Department of Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
August 7-11, 2018 - The Cedar Rapids Police Department, supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, hosted its first Crisis Intervention Team training at the Cedar Rapids Police Department. The 40-hour training program covered a variety of topics including information about specific mental illnesses and techniques on speaking to subjects who are in crisis.
May 4, 2019 – CRPD receives full advanced accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA).
April 1, 2020 – Mental Health Officer assigned to work full-time with the Law Enforcement Liaison.
June 9, 2020 – Members of the Cedar Rapids City Council and police department met with protest organizers at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids. Organizers presented a list of demands to ensure more transparency in local policing and government and racial equity within the city. The group met several times to understand the priorities and what processes and procedures were already in place in the police department.
June 11, 2020 - The Police Department adds the prohibition of Knee-to-Neck maneuvers to the Department’s Use of Force policy that already banned chokeholds and the use of vascular restraints. Policies were updated to require officers to intervene when they witness a use of force that is unnecessary or unlawful (Duty to Intervene).
June 19, 2020 – City Council held special council meeting passing resolution of support for addressing all seven BLM priorities.
August 11, 2020 – City Council Resolution was approved adding a full time Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager position in the City Manager’s Office. This person will lead efforts to promote and enhance diversity within the City organization through programs, training, and services.
August 17, 2020 – Second Law Enforcement Liaison added to the Mental Health Team at the Police Department.
September 22, 2020 – Council/Public update on all seven demands.
January 1, 2021 - Linn County Attorney’s Office launches newly established marijuana diversion program.
January 26, 2021 – First reading of ordinance outlining formation and duties of CRB approved by City Council.
February 9, 2021 – City Council approves ordinance outlining formation and duties of CRB.
City Council Meeting - June 19, 2020
At a special council meeting on June 19, 2020, Cedar Rapids City Council met to discuss and adopt a resolution of support showing their united commitment and support for seven priorities presented by local members of the Black Lives Matter movement. The resolution passed unanimously and each council member expressed their full support and commitment during the meeting. A video recording of the meeting is available on Facebook.
Press Conference - June 12, 2020
On June 12, 2020, Police Chief Wayne Jerman and Mayor Brad Hart held a press conference to communicate directly to the community actions that the Police Department had taken prior to the murder of George Floyd, swift action that has taken place to address priority issues, and our commitment to future action that demonstrates our continued commitment to treating all individuals with respect and dignity.
Press Conference - Facebook Live
Transcript of Police Chief Jerman's remarks:
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has brought issues to the forefront in communities throughout the United States concerning police brutality, policy reform, and other policing policies. The City of Cedar Rapids and the Cedar Rapids Police Department welcomes conversations that can improve our police operations and interactions with the community. Citizen engagement is one of the best ways to continue to build trust and relationships between citizens and their local government, including police services. This is also an opportunity for the community to learn more about the Cedar Rapids Police Department and the policies, procedures, and programs already in place that provide dignity and respect for all individuals. We welcome these conversations and review of City and Police Department policies and procedures in the spirit of both openness and transparency.
Today, we wanted to take the opportunity to communicate directly to the community actions that the Police Department had taken prior to the murder of George Floyd, swift action that has taken place to address priority issues, and our commitment to future action that demonstrates our continued commitment to treating all individuals with respect and dignity.
To help facilitate these changes and conversations, we are currently working on establishing an independent Citizen Review Board. We understand this step is important to the community and we are committed to making it happen.
The City and Police Department has made a significant investments in making our community welcoming and inclusive. We also have worked tirelessly to make our community a safer place to live, work, or visit. Police officers participate in annual implicit bias training and officers and all City employees participate in citywide diversity training. City employees have also participated in training programs to eliminate physical and communications barriers in city infrastructure, facilities, and programs.
We also understand the importance and sensitivity of dealing with mental health issues in the community, and have made a commitment to address these issues. In September 2017, the Cedar Rapids Police Department was awarded the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program Grant to facilitate collaboration between the criminal justice, mental health and substance abuse treatment systems. The Police Department partnered with Foundation 2 to employ a Law Enforcement Liaison with the goal of connecting those experiencing mental health issues to appropriate resources rather than incarceration. The Law Enforcement Liaison works with police officers and responds to calls for service involving individuals with a mental health crisis. Based on the success of the program, this year an additional Mental Health Liaison is being added and there is a police officer assigned to directly assisting the Liaisons. Also, in 2017, the Department established a Crisis Intervention Team, which is composed of specially trained officers whose function is to respond to incidents which involve a mental health crisis, where the officer’s specialized skills may be used to successfully conclude such an incident and to provide the individual with further assistance beyond the actual call.
Also, the City has provided funding and support to the Safe, Equitable, and Thriving Communities Task Force, better known as the SET Task Force. The City and Police Department are providing data and staff are partnering to improve economic opportunities, educational success, and better access to youth programming and services.
Last Saturday, I announced an update to the Police Department policy that strengthens the existing Code of Conduct policy, articulating the mandate to intervene when unlawful actions or excessive force is used by other officers. Intervening when unlawful behavior occurred was included as part of the Code of Conduct, but it was important to make it unequivocally clear with this policy update that officers must be held to the highest standards and have a duty to intervene. The Police Department’s Use of Force policy already prohibits maneuvers that would inhibit an individual’s airway, including chokeholds or knee-to-neck maneuvers. Officers receive regular training in de-escalation techniques, including Verbal Judo that provides necessary skills to redirect behavior and generate voluntary compliance, which increases personal safety and enhances professionalism.
In May 2019, the Cedar Rapids Police Department was awarded full advanced accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). There are 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States and the Police Department is one of only 5 percent of all law enforcement agencies that have earned this distinction. CALEA standards address our recruitment and hiring process, helping us to hire the best people possible to do the job of law enforcement. Our CALEA standards address the training of officers, including use of force issues. Further, CALEA standards address the role of supervisors and their responsibility to ensure that officers properly perform their duties and through counseling, remedial training, or taking more serious disciplinary action, supervisors are tasked with ensuring that our officers' behavior and performance is in compliance with the highest standards in the law enforcement profession.
The Police Department is open and transparent about policies and procedures. Nearly 100 policies and directives are available for the public to review on our website at www.cedar-rapids.org/police. At the same time, I implemented a Chief’s Advisory Committee in February 2017. The Chief’s Advisory Committee is made up of community members to elicit feedback from the committee concerning police programs, projects, training, and policies.
To further promote transparency and accountability, all Cedar Rapids police officers are equipped and trained to use body-worn cameras. Body cameras provide both accountability of police officers and the public. They also increase transparency, improve professionalism, and can result in more peaceful civil interactions. Just as important as the technology, the Police Department developed a comprehensive body camera policy. An advisory board provided input and reviewed the policy, as well as the United States Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union. Body cameras are an important piece of technology that strengthen the relationship between police officers and the community that we serve. Body-worn cameras have been proven to be useful tools for law enforcement throughout the country in documenting evidence, training officers, and improving officer performance.
There are a number of individuals and groups that have already presented ideas for change to the City and Police Department. We are committed to listening and finding ways to facilitate continuous improvement.
Both chambers of the Iowa Legislature passed a police reform law yesterday that would ban most chokeholds, allow the Iowa Attorney General to investigate deaths caused by an officer, and prevent an officer from being hired in Iowa if they have previously been convicted of a felony, fired for misconduct or quit to avoid being fired for misconduct. It would also require annual training for law enforcement on de-escalation techniques and implicit bias.
I want the community to have confidence that the Cedar Rapids Police Department – your police department – already has policies and procedures in place that comply with this legislation. I previously discussed chokeholds and how our department prohibits them. All of our officer-involved shootings are investigated by an external law enforcement agency, such as the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Further, we have had the Iowa Attorney General’s Office review officer-involved shooting incidents when referred by the Linn County Attorney’s Office. We have extensive background investigations of police officer candidates, including a review of their employment history, polygraph tests, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and interviews. Background checks require a review of the National Decertification Index. Also, the Civil Service Commission – three citizens appointed by the City Council – conduct interviews and provide a certified list of candidates to the Police Department.
I realize this is a lot of information, but we felt like it was important for the community to hear from us, learn what we are currently doing and also hear that we are fully committed to continue our efforts. These issues are important, and nothing is more important to me and our officers than having the trust of our community. All our departments, not just public safety, have an inherent interest in hearing from residents and understanding issues and barriers they are facing in the community. We hope to continue this dialogue city-wide in the days and weeks ahead.