Iowa City Police Citizens Review Board holds annual forum


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Concerns from the community at the Iowa City Police Citizens Review Board forum ranged from the treatment of service dogs to reactions to the Iowa City Diversity Committee’s recently suggested changes.

The review board held its annual forum at the Iowa City Public Library on Tuesday night.

Community members were given the opportunity to ask questions they may have about performance of the Iowa City police or the board.

One subject that was discussed at length was the treatment of service animals by police officers.

Catherine Moore, the president for the Johnson County Coalition for People with Disabilities, said she uses service dogs for a variety of purposes. She has had incidents in which officers demonstrated they did not know how to act around them. 

“As soon as he saw my dog, he pulled his gun,” she said about one incident where an officer came to her home. “People get so afraid of the animal. If it is indeed a service animal, it is not going to attack.”

Sherry Christoffer, also with the Johnson County Coalition for People with Disabilities, said she had offered her services of helping train officers in the past.

“I try to educate the police officers because of incidents, but they refuse,” she said. “I would be more than happy to come in and do the educating or be a part of it.”

Board member Donald King said questions were raised a year or two ago.

“They have … let’s say, a 15-minute video on working dogs,” King said. “There was an officer in the audience who said they do have sensitivity training for the dogs.”

University of Iowa law student Nicholas Harper asked questions concerning the board’s consideration of recommendations made by the Iowa City Diversity Committee.

The committee was commissioned in June 2012 by the City Council to look into the interactions between the city and minority groups. The full report from the committee was published in March, and some of its recommendations included that the board change its name and some structural elements.

Board Chairman Joseph Treloa said they made a recommendation to the City Council a year ago that its name be changed to the Citizens Police Review Board after hearing recommendations as last year’s forum.

“The recommendation is being made and submitted to City Council,” Treloar said.  “We’re going to wait to see what they have to say and see if they have recommendations for us.

“I think they just thought it would just be more representative of what we do.”

Harper also inquired about the forum and how the board addresses concerns about citizens being too intimidated to make complaints.

“Do you believe [the forum] is conducive in encouraging citizens to make reports, or do you think it’s intimidating in some ways,” he asked.

Treloar said the board members are aware that some citizens may be reluctant to report concerns, but that they hope the forum is a more inviting venue.

“Some citizens might be intimidated to go to the police station to make the complaint,” he said. “That’s why we’ve chosen different avenues, such as here at the Public Library [to hold the forum].”

Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness encouraged citizens to file complaints to not only the board but also with police departments themselves, because they all have offices designed to handle them.

“The police are doing a lot more recording,” she said. “There’s going to be more and more ways to check [the facts of an incident]. If they don’t hear about it, they can’t make changes.”

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