Some question police use of force


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Some Iowa City citizens came with numerous complaints for the Police Citizen’s Review Board on Wednesday — especially about the Iowa City police’s use-of-force policy.

The board — a group of five members appointed by the City Council that reviews reports about alleged police misconduct — held its second forum of the year.

At the meeting, Police Chief Sam Hargadine presented the use-of-force policy, which states a “police officer is justified in the use of any force which the peace officer reasonably believes to be necessary to affect the arrest or to defend any person from bodily harm while making the arrest.”

The policy also states that officers “may fire weapons to stop or incapacitate an assailant to prevent serious bodily injury or death” and that “for this purpose and to minimize danger to innocent bystanders, the officer should shoot at the center body mass, whenever possible. “

But some Iowa City residents openly disagreed with the policy. Questioning of law enforcement’s use of force in the county arose after the July shooting of John Deng. Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Stotler shot and killed Deng after he allegedly stabbed John Bohnenkamp.

Iowa City resident Heidi Sinderman, 37, raised the question of why police officers are urged to shoot at the “center body mass” as opposed to a body part that will simply handicap the person such as the arm or knee.

Hargadine left the forum before public discussion opened, but Joseph Treloar, a member of the board, said officers shoot because someone is in eminent danger.

“People don’t go down with one shot,” Treloar said, noting an incident in Toledo, Iowa, where an officer emptied his 9-mm gun on a person and still had to tackle the person. “The goal of shooting is not to kill them but to stop them.”

But area resident Carol deProsse had objections.

“Thousands of innocent people are killed by police departments all over the nation,” she said. “We arm police with guns, Tasers, and all kinds of techniques to protect them from a civilian threat that is frankly not there.”

deProsse also voiced concern about human error. “Police are human beings. They are going to make mistakes,” she said.

Iowa City police Officer Mike Smithy, who was also at the forum, defended his profession.

“We don’t use deadly force frequently,” he said. “People don’t understand what we run across every day. We are not perfect. We make mistakes and are expected to be held accountable for them.”

Though the forum lasted over two hours, some were disappointed with some of the outcomes.

“The forum is meant for citizens, so I don’t think others should have spoken,” deProsse said. “The police chief and police officer speaking can be intimidating.”

Other residents tried to stay positive about the forum.

“I just hope the questions presented tonight are addressed,” Sinderman said.

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