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Local citizen group hopes to approach Johnson County police

BY RACHEL GREEN | NOVEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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One Iowa City group hopes to reform the Johnson County justice system by improving relations between the community and police forces.

Reform the Johnson County Justice System hopes to make the system more accountable to residents of the area, focusing on the militarization of the police force, marginalized groups, and police brutality.

“We’re hoping to promote open dialogue between the community and the police forces and really explain to them how the community feels when it comes to the priority of criminal cases,” group member Keegan O’Malley said.

The idea of reforming the justice system has been prevalent in Johnson County, especially in light of the recent courthouse-annex vote on Nov. 4, in which voters turned down the proposal. Many people in the Johnson County area wanted the justice system to first be improved before adding on to the courthouse.

Reform the Johnson County Justice System, however, chose to focus solely on police relationships.

“We wanted to focus specifically on the police and not so much on the justice system, because I thought we would stretch ourselves too thin,” O’Malley said.

Members of the group were brought together by the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and were influenced by the militarization in both Ferguson and the Johnson County area.

O’Malley said one of the main focus points of the militarization debate is the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle the Iowa City Sheriff’s Office possesses.

“We see no valid reason a town of 77,000 should have a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, which they say is going to be used for rescue purposes,” he said. “We believe it will be used as intimidation against peaceful and public demonstrations.”

The group plans to organize a sit-down meeting with the police to learn more details about the policies the police department abides by.

They are hoping to have this interview scheduled sometime in early December.

“I know there’s been several groups or organizations who have tried to work with the police, and they have basically brushed them off,” group member Latisha McDaniel said. “I’m hoping that they will take what we bring to the table seriously and that we’re not an organization that is going away.”

O’Malley said organizing the sit-down will be a way to become more educated before they decide to hold demonstrations and ask for a change in the justice system and the police departments.

“We realize we don’t know some of the details of the policies, and we need to talk about those details to learn about the policies before making a change, and that’s what the sit-down will be about,” he said.

Reform the Johnson County Justice System member Kelsey Carr said she hopes to see an attempt at making improvements within the justice system in the future.

“I want to see more accountability and transparency, and more community policing,” she said. “I think one of the main goals of our group is to see better relationships between us and them and not to see it as us versus them.”


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