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Davenport's police union and civil rights leaders trade bitter accusations
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Davenport's police union and civil rights leaders trade bitter accusations

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Davenport’s police union has questioned the fairness of an upcoming policing reform discussion hosted by the Davenport Civil Rights Commission.

In a news release, Davenport Union of Professional Police Chairman Mike Greenleaf thanked the public for its support before criticizing “certain officials,” the Davenport Civil Rights Commission, and its director, Latrice Lacey.

The union’s reaction came after the seven-member Davenport Civil Rights Commission announced plans to meet on Saturday to listen to community members about the city’s policing, and hear a report from Lacey about policing reforms in other parts of Iowa and nationwide. The commission, which investigates civil rights complaints, plans to make recommendations to the city council on ways to improve relations between the community and its police.

Greenleaf and the union took exception to what he called “negative and false statements being produced by certain officials.” He said union members “are going to try to attend the meeting.”

“The false narrative surrounding police must stop being perpetuated by the opinion of spiteful individuals and must instead be evaluated by facts,” Greenleaf said in the statement. “The Union of Professional Police completely refutes recent statements made by the Davenport Civil Rights Commission stating that there is a ‘culture’ of mistreating minorities by our members. This is completely inaccurate and false, and again not backed by anything other than opinion.”

Greenleaf referenced comments made by DCRC Commissioner Rabbi Henry Karp, who said earlier this week issues of police culture were his biggest takeaways from a report Lacey created based on interviews with members of the public about their interactions with Davenport police.

“We are not looking so much at a problem of structure,” Karp said at the time. “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.”

Later Thursday, Greenleaf said he “was shocked” when he saw Karp’s words.

“The idea that we treat minorities differently than we treat other people is simply not true,” Greenleaf said. “Our department asked the federal government to come here and teach us about biased-based policing. In fact, 12 officers were trained in teaching biased-based policing so we could continue the program.”

“Our department has worked very hard at these issues for a long time. We pride ourselves at being ahead of the curve and recognizing there were areas we needed to improve.”

Greenleaf also said he stands behind the portion of Thursday’s release that singled out Lacey, questioning if she can be "fair and unbiased" toward police.

“Our members would be open to a fair and factual conversation on police reform. However, the Davenport Civil Rights Commission Director Latrice Lacey to be attempting to reform our profession without seeking input from any of our members is problematic,” Greenleaf said in the release. “The Union of Professional Police does not feel as if Director Lacey can render a fair and unbiased report herself due to her previous negative interactions with the Davenport Police Department and her most-recent criminal proceeding.”

Two commission members said Mayor Matson and Police Chief Paul Sikorski were briefed about the report and the Zoom conference in advance.

Lacey is serving a one-year suspended sentence with probation on a conviction of harassment, a serious misdemeanor, which she is appealing. She still faces a retrial on three counts of domestic abuse assault, all misdemeanors. The charges stem from an alleged domestic assault in Davenport.

Lacey called the union’s release a “personal attack” on her. She first responded to the release as a private citizen, saying she was “disappointed in the gaslighting and dismissal of concerns raised by impacted community members, the coded language, fear mongering and the overall failure of the police to understand they do not solely interact with the ‘citizens of Davenport.’”

Greenleaf said the union did not attack Lacey’s personal life. He said he wanted to point out he thought Lacey “has formed opinions about members of our union” and those opinions are “driving how Lacey is characterizing the union members.”

“I’m not taking this personally. It is not our intention to turn this into a tit-for-tat argument,” Greenleaf said. “I’m simply speaking up for our membership, which doesn’t deserve to be treated in this way.”

Later Thursday, Lacey released a statement from the DCRC.

“It is unfortunate that the Davenport Union of Professional Police has decided to resort to personal attacks in an effort to divert the community’s attention from the task at hand. The City of Davenport has the opportunity to address very complicated issues around race and historical trauma,” Lacey wrote in an email. “This conversation gives us the opportunity to address the issues in a way that will foster collaboration, reconciliation and justice allowing us to dismantle processes that reinforce systemic oppression as we know it.

“It is deeply concerning that members of the City of Davenport’s workforce do not see the value of having this very important conversation. If we cannot have open and honest discourse about the issues that we face as a community, how can those issues be assessed and addressed?”

The meeting will be held via Zoom at 10 a.m. Saturday. Anyone interested in attending can register at the Davenport Civil Rights Commission’s Facebook page, or call 563-326-7888 with questions.

Mayor Mike Matson announced city hall’s city council chambers will be opened for those who cannot participate in an online meeting. City hall is located at 226 W. 4th St. and doors will open shortly before the event.

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