Local group presents to City Council “Police Reform Plans” Concerns| Social Justice Concerns | Mayor Agnew responds.


Grinnell City Council and Friends,

We are a group of local citizens who value the services and endeavors of our elected officials, our city administration, and our Grinnell Police Department. We acknowledge we are in the midst of dynamic changes ignited by the murder of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis and countless other Black individuals, evoking nationwide protests, rallies and intensive focus on systemic racism. Called to accountability by​ ​recent events, predominantly white communities like ours are coming together to discuss concerns, questions, and ideas regarding local law enforcement. We as neighbors first and Americans second seek to seize this moment to examine, learn together from, and rectify the historical oppression and violence against Black citizens and other people of color in our own town of Grinnell.

As a framework for change, the Black Lives Matter movement brings practical actions to the forefront that are not outside of what our community can and should do. Indeed, what happens nationally and globally affects small communities like ours. We are assured our local police department is listening and thinking about these current issues. We believe they understand many of the problems that face our community. Therefore it is our hope that we can discuss issues of infrastructural injustice​ ​in a form that will​ ​open a dialogue between the community,​ ​our local police department, and the City Council. We want to contribute to ongoing solutions for our community, and our intention is to support the City Council in developing their next set of public safety goals with consideration for the current needs of our diverse community.

The next step we envision is your partnership in sponsoring a sharing of personal testimonies and a roundtable discussion between residents of Grinnell, the City Council, and our local police department. Our approach is based on the belief that if all are invited to the table and voluntarily take part in making solutions without being put on the defensive, the results will be long term, transparent, and supportive for the whole community. We have identified the following key areas as potential starting points for our discussion:

Comprehensive Review of City Budget

How the city spends its money dictates the type of city in which we live. We believe Grinnell can be a city where all residents have a comfortable and affordable place to live, access to quality mental healthcare, vibrant cultural and social spaces, and support from their community in difficult financial times. However, the adopted city budget for fiscal year 2021 does not reflect these aspirations. It allocates approximately $1.3 million to the police department and crime prevention while allotting a mere $2,000 to health and social services and $0 to housing and urban renewal. We believe Grinnell has enough funds to ensure our community’s health, vitality, and safety, and that a comprehensive review of how we direct and use our financial resources is in order to ensure our neighbors needs are met through the most appropriate services.

Mental Health

Iowa has a well-documented mental health crisis. Reallocating resources to better social and community mental health services can reduce the burden that otherwise falls to police officers. These community support systems can prevent the need for crisis intervention in the first place or provide more appropriate response mechanisms. We believe police officers are too often called as first responders to situations where a social worker trained in crisis intervention would be better equipped to deescalate the situation and help connect those in need to mental health resources. New ideas and resources need to be considered to align mental health professionals with local crisis response and law enforcement.

Continuous Education

The culture of our public safety and law enforcement agencies should embrace continuous education, training, and progressive thinking. Unlearning biases and becoming anti-racist is our individual and collective responsibility; we can only combat systemic racism when we learn to recognize its insidious nature. We believe the Grinnell Police Department should consider establishing professional development structures that foster open-mindedness, sensitivity to current cultural and social issues, and a commitment to continuously striving to improve awareness and empathy towards ALL community members.

Civilian Oversight

As a community, we should consider forming an independent civilian group with meaningful oversight of our police department. The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (nacole.org) provides compelling information about the value and integrity such a structure can bring to a community. We have an opportunity to learn from national events and ensure progressive policies and practices are put in place ​now, b​ efore another crisis situation emerges.

City Council Accountability

The Grinnell Police Department is overseen by the Public Safety Committee of the City Council. We believe an independent external review of this committee’s purpose and performance will reveal areas for improvement toward more meaningful City Council oversight. The review may answer questions regarding the committee’s policies, procedures and actions ensuring police accountability and proactively seeking ways to improve. They may also reveal measures that the Council should take to regularly train and assess committee members. Moreover, the results of this study would help inform civilian oversight efforts.

It is our hope that a constructive discussion between community members, representatives from the Grinnell Police Department, and the City Council inspired by the preceding issues will serve as an inclusive starting point in our efforts toward becoming a safer, healthier, and more peaceful community. Our group, the Committee to Reimagine Policing in Grinnell, presents this statement in response to both global and local calls to action against systemic racism that we believe must not go unanswered. We will continue to join together as neighbors seeking ongoing solutions for safety in our community and invite individuals interested in contributing to our efforts to email ​reimaginepolicinggrinnell@gmail.com​ to learn how they can get involved.

The Committee to Reimagine Policing in Grinnell

Todd Reding

Erin Bustin
Tina Elfenbein
Lily Hamilton
Jennie Jackson
Kirsten Klepfer
Maggie Levandoski Todd Reding
Kesho Scott
Vicky Springer
Laurel Strand-Crawford

June 13, 2020

The city of Grinnell condemns the actions of the Minneapolis Police Officers that resulted in the death of George Floyd. We stand with those peacefully calling for justice and change. What we witnessed was nothing short of reprehensible, with a callousness and total lack of regard for the safety and well-being of Mr. Floyd being exhibited by the officers.

There is no easy solution to this serious problem and meaningful improvement will only be possible with a sustained and thoughtful process that engages those willing to help. Racism, discrimination, and implicit racial bias are deeply entrenched in all aspects our society. The Grinnell community cannot eliminate systematic racism alone; however, we can do our part and more. We believe it would be disingenuous for us to pretend that we have solutions or put forth a plan to solve this problem without first bringing people together to exchange information and challenge each other to do more than any of us thought possible.

The city of Grinnell firmly denounces the hate, bigotry, racism, gender inequity, and discrimination that exists in our society. We recognize and acknowledge that the city of Grinnell has implicit bias in the delivery of our services. In early 2020, we began to investigate methods to address implicit bias and identify meaningful training opportunities to address this problem. Due to COVID-19 we lost the Grinnell College student that was leading this work and the training we had identified was canceled. We still believe that addressing implicit bias in all aspects of our work is appropriate but agree that focus on law enforcement is critical.

We have fielded several requests from the public about specific policies and practices as they relate to the Grinnell Police Department. We are working to place these policies on the city of Grinnell website and in the meantime, you may request copies by contacting Grinnell Chief of Police Dennis Reilly at dreilly@grinnellpd.com. These requests for information will be addressed in greater detail as this process advances. We offer the following information in response to those requests. We do not want to imply that we cannot do better or that we are unwilling to make meaningful change.

The mission of the Grinnell Police Department is “To protect and serve the community of Grinnell, providing a peaceful and safe existence, free from fear and with democratic values applied equally to all”. This mission is thefoundation for which the police department operates on. The police department seeks to accomplish this mission daily through:

• A thorough hiring process, which includes an interview with representatives of our community, background investigation, psychological screening and polygraph examination, that identifies individuals who are seeking to provide professional law enforcement to our community in a fair and impartial manner;

• The use of policy that is based on state and federal law, along with industry best practice;

• Frequent training opportunities, in subject matters such as use of force and de-escalation, implicit bias and prohibited biased-based policing, which support and reinforce department policy.
• An internal affairs process that requires the acceptance and investigation of any complaint, whether they originate from outside or within the agency, from known and unknown sources;
• Command review of all uses of force, to include those instances where officer’s display but do not use a weapon;
• Annual review of uses of force for the identification of trends, training needs and/or equipment;
• Annual review of department enforcement activity in relation to race, gender and ethnicity;
• Integrated body warn and in-car camera systems for the recording of officer contacts with members of the public to hold officers accountable and for the protection of officers started in 2010;

• Community engagement that includes activities such as: foot patrol of public areas; frequent walk-thru of our schools; Citizens Police Academy; National Night Out in Central Park; Junior Police Academy; Coffee with a Cop; Shop with a Cop; presentations before civic organizations, businesses, community groups, student organizations.

As it relates to the Minneapolis Police Department contact with Mr. Floyd, several Grinnell Police Department policy sections, and training on these policies, cover the deficiencies observed. It is worth mentioning again that you may obtain copies of our policies by contacting Grinnell Chief of Police Dennis Reilly at dreilly@grinnellpd.com. These applicable policy provisions include:

• The Grinnell Police Department recognizes and respects the value of all human life and dignity without prejudice to anyone.

• The use of the Carotid Control Hold, as well as any other compression or striking of the neck, will be considered a use of deadly force and is subject to deadly force application requirements;

• A duty to intercede, when any officer present observes another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable, and to promptly report these observations to a supervisor.

• To render aid and continuous monitoring of those exhibiting signs of physical distress until they can be medically assessed.

In times such as these it is the responsibility of every city and law enforcement agency to reflect upon what has taken place, listen to and embrace the concerns of the public, and evaluate the policies, practices and relationships within law enforcement and the community. To that end, the city will be exploring the creation of a stakeholder group to assess where we are currently at and explore how to productively move forward. Mayor Agnew will oversee and guide this process and our goal would be to start this process in earnest in July 2020.

It is our goal to see that positive steps are taken, in lite of this tragedy, for the betterment of Grinnell. Our firm commitment to the Grinnell community is to facilitate a meaningful and productive process that will result in greater equity in service delivery for all residents of our community. This will be a sustained effort over the coming months and years by providing opportunities for our citizens to help us improve equity in service delivery; to understand the blind spots in our work; and to come together as the Grinnell community to discuss solutions and strategies to create real, positive, and lasting change for Grinnell.

Mayor Dan Agnew, dagnew@grinnelliowa.gov, 641-236-2600

Mayor Pro Tern and Chair of the Grinnell City Council Public Safety Committee Jim White,batesflw@pcpartner.net, 641-990-0735

Grinnell Chief of Police Dennis Reilly, dreilly@grinnellpd.com, 641-888-0826

Grinnell City Manager Russ Behrens, rbehrens@grinnelliowa.gov, 641-990-6372