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Police Citizens Review Board holds forum on southeast side

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | NOVEMBER 10, 2010 7:20 AM

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In past years, the Iowa City Police Citizen Review Board has held its meetings at City Hall.

But on Tuesday night, the Police Board met for its third-annual public forum on the Southeast Side of Iowa City at The Spot, 1030 Cross Park Ave. — a place in which the group has never held a meeting or forum.

The new location is part of the board's effort to appear less intimidating for Iowa City residents.

"We're trying to be as accessible as possible," said Vice Chairman Joseph Treloar.

The Police Board was established in 1997 after a police officer accidently shot and killed local artist Eric Shaw in his studio. The board is the only one in Iowa. The group acts as a watchdog for the community, and members are appointed by the Iowa City City Council to review citizens' complaints against the police.

Larger cities across the country, including Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, and New York, have similar organizations.

Sue Freeman, the program director of Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County who attended the forum, said the new location was intended to encourage more attendees.

"I hope that having the forum located in the community instead of downtown will make it more accessible for working families and poor working families, in particular," she said.

Social worker and Iowa City resident Kim Hanrahan said she had never attended a forum for the Police Board before and decided to attend this one to hear community's input on filing complaints.

Donald King, the chairman of the board, said he expected 30 to 40 people to join the discussion.

Despite the low turnout of 12 residents, board members said it was still a success.

Board member Royceann Porter said she is trying to raise awareness about the problems that face southeastern Iowa City, such as a shooting and gang-related incidents.

Henry Harper, who has lived in Iowa City for 12 years, commended the Iowa City police on their work in southeastern Iowa City.

He has worked with kids in Iowa City, he said, and not as many kids feel intimidated by the police in recent months. Instead, he said, they realize that police are there to enforce laws.

So far this year, four complaints have been filed against the police. In 2009, there were nine, six in 2008.

After the forum adjourned, Freeman said events such as Tuesday night's are incredibly important, but more should be done.

"I think the [Police Board] was started out with a notion that it's important to have a venue to give the Police Department good feedback and to be able to share concerns in a manner that offers citizen feedback," Freeman said.


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