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.