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Preventing the Over-Policing of People of Color

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer, we’ve been asked what training and procedures the North Liberty Police Department has in place to help prevent the over-policing of people of color in our own community. This post provides a high-level overview of current training, policies and procedures. There is, of course, work still to do, and it’s important for our community to hold conversations and itself accountable.

Use of Force

Every incident that results in someone in our care/custody/control that results in the complaint of pain, sustains a visible injury, known to cause injury, or when pointing a firearm at an individual, is documented on a separate use-of-force report by every member that went hands-on or pointed a firearm at an individual. The on-scene supervisor is made aware (if they are not already on scene). This incident is reported to the lieutenant and then it is assigned to a separate, uninvolved sergeant, to start the review. The review includes all radio traffic, body and in-car video camera, officer’s narrative reports, photographs of any injuries, GPS of vehicles, and any statements by the offender/subject/witnesses on scene. The investigation is forwarded to the lieutenant for another review and then forward to the chief.  At each step, the reviewer is to make sure our mission, values, policies, procedures, and training and compliance are followed and lawful in these situations. If there is an issue, it is addressed with the involved parties and may include an internal investigation with discipline resulting in and up to termination. These are reviewed yearly to see if we need to change or modify any training or policies or if we recognize any trends. Most, if not all of these cases result in some sort of criminal charges.  All of the evidence (photos, narratives/reports, and audio and video recordings) are forwarded outside of this department to the county attorney and defense attorney for review. If it ends up being prosecuted this will be before a judge/jury to review.

Complaints

Every complaint made to the police department is followed-up and reviewed. Every formal written complaint is investigated and a written response is provided back to the complainant. These are also much like the use of force review and we verify that the mission of this department, our values, policies, police procedures, and lawful actions are being followed. The complaint and the findings are also forward to the City Administrator and city attorney.

Policy

We do not just have a policy book on the shelf that we refer to. We have an updated best practices manual. These are updated every six months with the legal changes through Lexipol, professional law enforcement software. This software not only tracks and reviews changes and compliance, it also requires officers’ acknowledgment of the polices, stating that they have read, reviewed, and understood the presented information. Along with this, we have daily training bulletins of real situations/scenarios, the actual policy itself, how our policy applies, and then a follow-up question to make sure there is comprehension. We have this training daily and they cover all topics in our policy manual. These scenarios are thought-provoking and discussed when we have briefings.

Hiring

We hire for character and train for competence. Especially following the core values of our department to create our police culture.

Training

Outside of the 560 hours of the basic academy training and the annual in-service requirements, we exceed the State’s minimum training requirements. We have access to online training webinars on force, de-escalation, critical incident skills, and all officers have attended the 40-hour Critical Intervention training. We also get to practice this skill daily. We have sent and trained not only our front line officers on use of force, constitutional policing, implicit bias, and handling critical incidents, we have trained our sergeants to investigate and review these events. For any of our in-service training, our instructors have to complete lesson plans spelling out the objective, policies covered, and the learning principles to the chief before the training. Afterward, the instructor and officer/student have to provide a review/evaluation of the training. Each member, after they are sent to training, have to come back and reflect on our current practices and if there are any inconsistencies with any policies and procedures that need to be reviewed.  We also subscribe to Police One, Force Science newsletter, Lexipol Tips, Daigle Law Group, Caliber Press, Public Agency Training Council, Chief’s Association, Americans for Effective law enforcement, and the Police Executive Research Forum to make sure we are in the know with the daily communications of professional and constitutional policing.

Supervision/Management

We have an early-warning system that is reviewed every six months with red flags that require training, discussion, and follow-up with employees if they get flagged. This not only includes damaged property, complaints, biased policing and use of force, but other areas like being named in a lawsuit, tardy, or other disciplinary issues. We have a three-month extensive field training program for all new hires that are evaluated every day for their performance, attitude, and skills. We have our annual evaluations for all employees to make sure they are meeting the expectations of our department. If employees are not meeting standards we use a performance improvement plan to help them succeed and we are not afraid to cut ties with a recruit or an officer that is not meeting our standards. We have one supervisor per shift and they lead by example with the front line officers. They also train, counsel and discipline their subordinates. We hold ourselves and our employees to high standards and we know there are bad cops out there. We have these standards in place with the hope to keep them out of NLPD.

And because she believes in all of these measures, Chief Venenga is also appointed to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Council at the recommendation of the Iowa Police Chief’s Association.  Not only does she get to help decide how recruits are trained and state standards are developed, but she is also a voting member for decertifying any officer that tarnishes the badge in the State of Iowa. We are and should be held to a high standard.

We also encourage those with more questions on what departments are doing to attend the citizen police academy that is held annually. This provides a good look at all of our police practices as well as our neighboring agencies in Johnson County because we cannot be effective without the support from our community. Additional questions are welcome. The police department’s records division can provide copies of policies, and Chief Diane Venenga, City Administer Ryan Heiar and Mayor Terry Donahue are available by phone or email. Records can be reached at [email protected] or (319) 626-5724, Chief Venegna can be reached at [email protected] or (319) 626-5724, City Administer Heiar can be reached at [email protected] or (319) 626-5700 and Mayor Donahue can be reached at [email protected] or (319) 626-3774.

 

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