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Local

Justice for all

Burdess takes part in forming statewide equality task force with NAACP

Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess holds Malia McMillon, 3, during a June 1 demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd and racial injustices. Peaceful protestors gathered around the Jasper County Courthouse for several hours while several onlookers watched from beneath canopies of local businesses.
Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess holds Malia McMillon, 3, during a June 1 demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd and racial injustices. Peaceful protestors gathered around the Jasper County Courthouse for several hours while several onlookers watched from beneath canopies of local businesses.

Efforts from law enforcement and civil rights groups hope to bring about positive changes in policing across the state.

A task force, created in collaboration with the Iowa Police Chiefs Association and the Iowa-Nebraska branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, hopes to kickstart open communications to improving law enforcement procedures and relations with diverse stakeholders in communities.

The formation of the Law Enforcement Vision for Equality Task Force was announced this month by Newton Police Chief and IPCA President Rob Burdess and Iowa-Nebraska NAACP State Area Conference of Branches President Betty C. Andrews. Several law enforcement officers in Iowa have joined the task force.

Members of the Law Enforcement Vision for Equality Task Force include:

• Kevin Sanders, president of Iowa City NAACP, co-chair of State Criminal Justice Committee

• Jeremy Logan, chief of Oelwein Police Department

• Tim Carmody, chief of Council Bluffs Police Department

• Rex Mueller, chief of Sioux City Police Department

• Daniel Banks, chief of Hudson Police Department

• Lonnie Pulkrabek, sheriff of Johnson County Sheriff’s Office

• Tony Thompson, sheriff of Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office

• Jason Sandholt, sheriff of Marion County Sheriff’s Office

• Stephen Bayens, commissioner of Iowa Department of Public Safety

• Ryan Doty, lieutenant of Des Moines Police Department

• Brian Guy, retired chief of Clinton Police Department

• Joe Gonzalez, retired lieutenant of Des Moines Police Department

• Ike Rayford, president of Sioux City NAACP

• Monique Scarlett, founder of Unity in the Community

Burdess said this core group does not limit input or involvement from other agencies that are not listed. The task force wants a wide breath of feedback. This is an important topic for the law enforcement industry, Burdess said. Officers want to hear from their diverse communities what the issues are.

“The focus is: to listen,” Burdess said. “… In my role as the president of (IPCA), I oversee a number of committees. So I’m going to have involvement in the task force. My role is mainly oversight and reporting. I’m going to involved in some of the conversations, but my bigger role is passing on those conversations.”

To who exactly? Burdess said he’ll mostly report feedback to state leaders and law enforcement executives. He’ll also communicate with any federal leadership and partnering with any reforms that are coming from different levels of government. Already, these conversations are happening statewide, he said.

Much of the conversation was sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody. Protests all over the country have demanded change. On June 1, in Newton, peaceful protesters gathered in the town square and took a knee with Burdess and other officers to mourn Floyd’s unjust death.

Andrews, of Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, said in a press release, “It is undeniable that now is the time for improving law enforcement and community relationships. Those relationships are authenticated by transparent practices and engaged citizens.”

By establishing the Law Enforcement Vision for Equality Task Force, she added, the IPCA is “poised to ensure unbiased policing in our state.” This includes addressing racial profiling, hiring practices, citizens review boards, officers living in towns they police and “a number of other challenging topics.”

Burdess said the hope is for the task force to have long-term impacts and promote consistent policing in every police department and sheriff’s office in the state. Every agency in Iowa has to be on the same page. Newton Police Department, he said, has welcomed an open dialogue with its town for years.

“We’ve been involved with different groups throughout the years talking about issues,” he said. “… We do have a connection and we can always be better. It’s just trying that vehicle to improve and getting that feedback. I’ve had great conversations with community members over the past three weeks here.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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