December Dial urges citizens to demand more police training


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Using momentum gained by the recent wave of local protests, Iowa City residents have created the December Dial social-media initiative as a way take their message of racial justice and equality directly to city leaders.

The goal of the December Dial is for citizens to call city officials each day through the month of December and demand that $100,000 be allocated to better train Iowa City police officers in racial and cultural sensitivity, Iowa City resident Kendra Malone said.

“The [$100,000] is really just an investment, an additional but necessary step in the right direction as a collection of steps to right the wrongs of our system,” said University of Iowa senior Kyra Seay, who has been involved in the initiative.

As of Thursday evening, 141 people joined the December Dial Facebook page.

Malone said when she attended a local demonstration related to the events in Ferguson, Missouri, in November, she heard people asking what they could do after the protest was over.

“The reality is that people get all fired up and they host protests, but then they don’t do anything afterwards related to issues of racial justice and police brutality against people of color,” she said.

Malone then came up with the idea that people should call city leaders and demand action, she said.

“The call urged rally participants to call the chief of police, city councilors, [and the] city manager to request $100,000 be allocated beginning in the fiscal year 2016 and every subsequent year,” she said.

Stefanie Bowers, the city’s human-rights coordinator and equity director, said the City Council established an ad-hoc diversity committee in 2012 to evaluate the city’s performance on diversity issues and the make recommendations, which it did.

Police Sgt. Scott Gaarde, the information officer for the department, said the police have been working to implement what the ad-hoc diversity committee advised.

“Most of the recommendations that it made we’re already in the process of implementing or have implemented,” Gaarde said.

He said the Iowa City police constantly work with the officers to make sure they have the training to interact with the diverse population of Iowa City.

“A lot of things that people are asking for, we’re already in the process of doing, such as getting … body cameras, things of that nature, we already have in-car cameras, we’ve already began the process of different diversity training as well as trying to diversify the ranks of our officers,” he said.

Malone said from her perspective, however, the police efforts are not enough.

“I have not personally seen or experienced any of the programming or initiatives that the Iowa City Police Department has instituted around community building and decreasing its bias against people of color,” she said.

Seay said the December Dial is about systematic and institutional racism.

“It’s not an attack on individual members of the police force or at the people who are attempting to solve these issues with current [or] existing programs,” she said. “It’s simply that more work needs to be done, and now is the time, because my life, my classmates’ lives, my brother’s life count on it.”

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