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Public Safety and Increased Shootings in Iowa City

Karen Kubby, past Iowa City Councilor, and someone I have met with and respect, asked a question on an older post of mine and I thought it warranted a longer response in its own post. Thanks for the question, Karen, and for the prompt to discuss public safety.

Her question was in response to my post about the ongoing effort to reimagine law enforcement in Iowa City (which is a priority of mine) and my comments about the dramatic increase in shootings in Iowa City this year (As of the end of July- 23 shootings involving 159 rounds, 3 homicides and 8 other injuries- and it’s increased since then). The specific comment was: “What would you have the ICPD do differently? Can you be specific”

I have often said that complex problems don’t fit on bumper stickers. Similarly, Facebook comments are a poor venue for discussing complex issues and this is certainly one. I’ll at least give some initial thoughts that I hope will prompt a broader discussion in the community.

Before addressing the ICPD, I’ll first be specific about what the rest of us should do differently. First is that any talk about abolishing police should stop. Calling them “pigs”, “bastards”, or any other expletives, should similarly end, and we should more actively oppose the voices that do so. Neither police officers nor our policing system is perfect. They should be held accountable and held to a high standard for sure. But just because hold them to a higher standard doesn’t mean the rest of us get held to no standard. Our officers and leaders play a vital (but not the only) role in solving these issues and I’d like to show appreciation for that. They have responded to these shootings and have apprehended many of those responsible. That deserves our thanks and there is a noticeable lack of it in our city council, the candidates for that office and elsewhere.

The next thing we need to do differently is to actually acknowledge and talk about the increase in shootings at the City Council level. While I know there are discussions with city staff and the ICPD, this needs to be a topic we are addressing at strategic level within the council so that it receives the attention it should. We are spending hours (and countless tweets and news columns) talking about a vehicle that Iowa City uses an average of once a year and virtually zero time talking about the increased shootings and what to do about it. I too have concerns about the MRAP and it’s use, but let’s keep our eye on the ball. The use of the MRAP is a worthy discussion, but people are getting shot and dying in Iowa City at an increasing rate. That’s more important. We need to talk about shootings in Iowa City.

So, the original question: What would I have the ICPD do differently? The answer is: I don’t know. Or at least I’m not sure. I’ve had a lot of experiences and can be considered an expert in some things, but law enforcement is not one of them. I’m also not a resident of the areas where these shootings have occurred. Even if I were either or both of those, it would be awfully presumptuous of me to just list out my ideas to solve this. I certainly have questions and thoughts, but those should be vetted through people who are smarter than me and/or are directly involved in the areas where there are issues. That’s what I believe leaders do. They bring the right people together to discuss an issue, facilitate discussion, make a plan and assure the plan is executed.

As a member of city council, I would first make this a priority agenda item and raise public awareness and debate. Next, I would bring those together that have expertise and a stake in working towards solutions. We have vibrant and active neighborhood associations. We should include them. We have housing, substance abuse and mental health experts, we should involve them to talk about underlying causes and longer-term solutions. We hire and use considerable tax dollars to employ public safety experts. We should ask them. Solutions don’t come from a proclamation or Facebook post one person writes. They come from bringing people together to problem solve.

That is what I would do as a city councilor.

I know work like this has happened and I applaud those engaging in it, but we need more focus from our elected leaders on this issue.

How should we be discussing and addressing public safety, specifically shootings, in Iowa City? Where do you agree or disagree with my preceding thoughts? As always, I welcome discussion and debate. Please comment below or send me a private message or email. And please share this to engage others in the conversation.

Jason Glass

Candidate, Iowa City Council- At Large

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