Latrice Lacey has spent the better part of the last month listening to Davenport citizens talk about their relationship with the city’s police department.
Now the seven-member Davenport Civil Rights Commission’s will listen to what Lacey, the director of the DCRC, was told and hear more input from the public when they gather for Saturday’s 10 a.m. meeting about police reforms.
The meeting will held via Zoom. Anyone interested in attending can register by going to the Davenport Civil Rights Commission’s Facebook events page. Or call 563-326-7888 with questions.
“In June we asked Latrice Lacey to do some listening sessions and she put together a report for us,” said DCRC Commissioner Rabbi Henry Karp. “And now we do some listening on Saturday. People will have a half hour to make comments at the beginning. Then we will discuss the policing reform recommendations we want to bring to (Mayor Mike Matson) and the city council.
“And then people will be able to comment on the discussion," Karp said. "I think we will be doing lots of listening.”
DCRC Chairperson Janelle Swanberg echoed her colleague.
“I want to go with an open mind with the goal of offering thoughtful and constructive suggestions to the mayor and city council about the ways in which we can reform policing in our city,” Swanberg said. “We don’t want to be divisive, but we would like to get at the truth and speak to the truth.”
Besides reporting to the commissioners, Lacey provided a five-page document entitled “Policing Reforms” that outlined some changes communities in Iowa and across the country are implementing. The pamphlet also outlined broader changes to the very philosophy of policing.
“The broader conversation is about things like criminalizing survival, looking at the formation of neighborhood council that participates in the local government, safe housing, and investing in care instead of control,” Lacey said. “And there are more specific things, like demilitarizing police forces and removing police officers from schools.
“But what we really want to look at is how policing can be oppressive. When we address issues of oppression I think it will be easier to talk about reducing harm and enhancing body cameras.”
Karp said issues of police culture were his biggest takeaway from Lacey’s report.
“We are not looking so much at a problem of structure,” he said. “But there is a culture among some Davenport police officers who simply don’t treat people of color with the same dignity they treat white people.
“The biggest challenge will be to change the culture.”
Karp and Swanberg said the commission has briefed both Mayor Matson and Police Chief Paul Sikorski about the report and the Zoom conference.
“I would say both were very positive about what we are doing,” Karp said. “Remember, both our mayor and our police chief were at the first local protests after the killing of George Floyd. I think they are listening, too.”