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We Meet #8CantWait. Next Up? More Work Citywide

Recently, Mayor Terry Donahue, City Administrator Ryan Heiar and Police Chief Diane Venenga committed to having uncomfortable conversations, listening to our community and taking bold steps to ensure transparency and equity. Meanwhile, members of our community have asked us to review our alignment to the policies outlined by Campaign Zero’s “8 Can’t Wait” as an immediate first step.

Currently, all our Police Department’s policies meet all eight of the 8 Can’t Wait policy goals, which are:

  1. Ban chokeholds and strangleholds. NLPD policy says officers “should not intentionally use any technique that restricts blood flow to the head, restricts respiration or which creates a reasonable likelihood that blood flow to the head or respiration would be restricted,” and does not train or practice these techniques.
  2. Require de-escalation. NLPD policy recognizes “taking no action or passively monitoring” can be the most reasonable response, and provides steps for de-escalation in both policy and practice.
  3. Require verbal warnings before firing a weapon. NLPD policy states that “a verbal warning should precede the use of deadly force”.
  4. Require exhausting all alternatives before shooting. NLPD policy acknowledges the effectiveness of non-lethal techniques, and requires officers to consider the degree to which the application of the techniques can be controlled, how a technique might prevent compliance and if an “individual has been given sufficient opportunity to comply” and to discontinue use once compliance is achieved.
  5. Require officers to intervene and report use of excessive force. NLPD policy requires an officer to intercede when observing another officer “using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances” and to report it to a supervisor immediately.
  6. Ban shooting at moving vehicles. NLPD policy says officers “should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.”
  7. Require a use-of-force continuum. NLPD policy requires officers to “use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary… to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose.” And provides a non-exhaustive list of 16 factors officers must consider.
  8. Require comprehensive reporting for every threat of or use of force. NLPD policy requires any use of force to be “documented promptly, completely and accurately” including articulating a justification for the use of force.

North Liberty Police Department policy is in line with Campaign Zero’s other suggestions, though many are policy goals requiring action at the state and federal level to fully realize. Additionally, the department aligns with the Police Executive Research Forum’s Guiding Principles on Use of Force, which start with the statement that “the sanctity of human life should be at the heart of everything an agency does.”

Meanwhile, our current policy manual, which is updated every six months, is being reviewed by Chief Venenga and will also be reviewed by an external third party. Further, while copies of the department’s 156 policies are available upon request, we have published the most-often requested policies on our website. Additionally, we’re actively working to upgrade our ability to collect and share statistics on police encounters so we can better track our department’s work, identify trends and fix problems, as well as provide greater transparency into our policing.

As policies for police departments throughout our state are reviewed, Chief Venenga will continue to be a representative on the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Council for any discussion in hiring, decertifying,  and training our officers. She will also continue in her role on the executive board of the Iowa Police Chief’s Association for continued updates and legislative needs to improve policing in our state. Chief Venenga has been meeting with the local NAACP president to discuss strategies and partnerships moving forward for law enforcement partners in our community.

The City of North Liberty values transparency, equity and social justice, and the goal of meeting those ideals are organization wide. The work we do is with good intentions, but even the best intentions and policy, when layered with history, can have  unintended consequences and disproportionate impact.

In addition to working with Chief Venenga on taking additional steps to identify potential unintended inequalities and enhance community policing, City Administrator Heiar will be working with the City Council, the city’s management team and the community to identify and address systemic biases within our organization.

We are committed to responsive, responsible public safety and city services, and to uphold our community’s values. This is the beginning, not the end.

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