Ames City Council unanimously voted to improve police policies in Ames by accepting suggestions made by staff and the public.
“This is not the end; the public continues to contact the City Council to give inputs and ask questions, and I believe the intent is to continue using public input as these move forward — it’s gonna take time,” Ames Mayor John Haila said Tuesday.
A 47-page report from Ames City Manager Steve Schainker and city staff — which included 21 different recommendations to local police practices and analysis of community input — was reassessed by the Ames City Council Tuesday.
The report encompasses nine different themes, including organizational structure, officer recruitment and selection process, officer training, departmental policies, city ordinances and state law, transparency, accountability in complaint handling and discipline, communication and funding.
This report had already been discussed at a special Ames City Council meeting in September.
The council established they are open to talking with other counties and possibly to hosting a workshop to receive extra feedback about different ways to improve policing in Ames.
The report contains 21 recommendations to address concerns that were previously made.
During the public forum, Ahmed Ismail, senior in industrial engineering and Ames Black Lives Matter leader, addressed the council about the lack of communication with marginalized communities. Ismail said he spoke to some of the council members and the chief of police about how Ames doesn’t understand marginalized communities.
“I am still confused on why the process is being done in this way,” Ismail said. “I want to know what the council's take is and if they will push forward on this.”
Ames City Council requested Schainker put together all of the correspondence that were received, put the information into common themes and provide recommendations on how to address each individual theme in the memo.
“I did meet with Ahmed, and I think he was very persuasive to me that the city does not do as good as a job it could in discussing issues that are important to marginalized communities," Schainker said.
Schainker said he made a recommendation that the City Council would commit to have a dialogue with representatives from marginalized communities.
Additionally, Schainker also spoke on funding in the police department, discussed in theme nine.
“I hope I have made it clear that I am not in support of defunding the police department in any way,” Schainker said. “I want to point out to the public how much of a commit you made financially to human service agencies throughout the years since we actually were fortunate enough to receive local options for sales tax funds.”
Theme nine discusses the reallocation of funds to programs such as various social service agencies, programs related to mental health, social work, crisis intervention, drug prevention/treatment, affordable housing and much more.
The Ames Police Department’s budget of $10,596,148 makes up 4 percent of the city of Ames' budget, with 88 percent of that budget going to salary and benefits with the remaining $1,297,320 for other expenses.
Of the total budget, $9,298,828 goes toward personal services, which are the salary and benefits of those who work in the department. Of the remaining portion, $800,355 goes toward internal services, $346,165 goes toward contractual expenses and $150,800 goes toward commodities/other.
In addition to the total police budget, $8,171,183 is marked for police services with the remaining $2,424,965 directed toward administration/records and emergency communication functions.
Each council member voted on the 21 recommendations stated in the memo, with only a few modifications to different ones.
For theme four, Gloria Betcher, Ward 1 representative, recommended departmental policies be accessible electronically and in print and have a copy of it at the public library.
“We want to ensure that anyone who is a resident of Ames feels included in these recommendations and is able to contribute to be a part of the advisory committee,” Betcher said.
Theme seven address accountability and complaint handling and discipline. Recommendations include creating an Ames Citizen Police Advisory Committee (ACPAC). The goal of this committee would be to incorporate citizen perspective into evaluations of citizen complaints against the police department and increase public confidence in the accountability of the Ames Police Department.
Rachel Junck, Ward 4 representative, recommended term limits for those who serve on the advisory committee. Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen, at-large representative, seconded the motion.
Junck recommended a motion to include term limits to allow for student representation.
“I would move that we have staff explore possibilities for term-wise that would be inclusive for Iowa State students for the ACPAC committee,” Junck said.
The council voted to approve the suggestions made by city staff. The full meeting can be viewed online through the city’s YouTube channel.