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  • Writer's pictureAbby Fowler

Community Policing: A Project for the Czech Republic and Slovakia

From August 17th to 23rd, we hosted a delegation from the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Eastern Iowa for a program called “Community Policing.” This program aimed to exchange best practices for hiring and training new members of police from minority communities, as well as share lessons learned about increasing cooperation between law enforcement and minority communities to prevent crime.

After their arrival, the delegation had their first evening in Iowa City free to explore. The next morning, they boarded a bus to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, where they met Colonel Doug Riniker and Major Chad Colston. During this meeting, they learned about diversity in the office, and gathered information on current efforts to diminish minority oppression by officers.

Touring the Police Department.

After some free time in Iowa City, the delegation met with members of the Iowa City Police Department. Andrew McKnight, Joshua Dabusu, Colin Fowler, Joah Seelos, and Daisy Torres described ICPD policing practices that work to build trust, particularly with minority communities. They also discussed crisis intervention strategies, outreach efforts, immigrant and refugee programming, and active bystandership for law enforcement.

The next day, the group virtually met Paul J Fischer, Senior Technology Advisor, at the Iowa City Public Library to demo a game titled Harmony Square. Harmony Square is an online game developed by the U.S. Department of State and Tilt, a Dutch media collective that seeks to increase resilience against online manipulation. The game is based on inoculation theory - the idea that safe exposure to a harmful concept can prevent its long-term effects - and University of Cambridge social scientists assessed that users are measurably more resistant to the effects of disinformation as a result of playing the game.

After lunch, the delegation had a meeting with Amanda Nichols, Chair of the Iowa City Community Police Review Board (CPRB), and Iowa City Police Chief Dustin Liston. The CPRB investigates and writes reports about alleged police misconduct, providing detailed conclusions that explain the extent to which complaints should be sustained or dismissed. Amanda provided an overview of their roles and responsibilities in serving their community to ensure fair policing practices. After this final meeting, the group had the rest of the evening to explore and enjoy Iowa City.

The next morning, the group boarded a bus to visit the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, a museum that preserves, presents, and transcends unique stories of Czech and Slovak history and culture. Lifelong Learning Specialist Melina Testin gave them a tour of the museum. Afterwards, the group had time to explore the nearby Czech Village and New Bohemia district for shopping and lunch. They returned to Iowa City around 3 pm and had the rest of the evening free.

On Sunday, August 21st, the group’s only scheduled activity was an Iowa Table dinner. After a free day to explore, they visited Don and Suzanne Kirchner’s home.

Enjoying a meal with Don and Suzanne Kirchner.

Meeting with Andre Wright, co-founder of Humanize my Hoodie.

The next day, the delegation participated in a live online workshop on Zoom facilitated by Kara Schommer and Katona Barnes of Humanize my Hoodie, a fashion activism brand that aims to debunk the myth of Black criminality and fight other social injustices faced by minorities. This was a virtual Ally Workshop that encourages collaboration and deep thought on sensitive topics. Afterwards, they met Andre Wright, the co-founder of Humanize my Hoodie, for lunch and discussion about the workshop at his office.

After their lunch with Andre and some free time, they met again with the same representatives of the Iowa City Police Department. This time, they described the ICPD’s partnership with the community, discussing the Citizen’s Police Academy and share the curriculum, Coffee with a Cop, the department’s efforts to recruit and hire more officers from minority communities, and working with LGBTQ area partners.

Following this meeting, the group had their final evening in Iowa City free. They departed for St. Petersburg, Florida the next morning.

“The city and university [were] quite exemplary,” said interpreter Ivo Reznicek.

Thank you so much to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Iowa City Police Department, Paul J Fischer, Melina Testin, and Humanize My Hoodie for your participation as professional resources in this program!

Thank you also to volunteers Melanie Haupert, Arnold Daniels Jr., Barbara Clark, and Don and Suzanne Kirchner for volunteering to greet, escort, and host this group throughout their time in Eastern Iowa. You truly made their time here special!

If you’re interested in volunteering with Global Ties Iowa, sign up for our mailing list and stay tuned for upcoming opportunities to connect the world and the heartland!


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