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May 6, 2024

Opinion: A statement from the Committee to Reimagine Policing in Grinnell

Grinnell community members created a George Floyd memorial outside the Grinnell United Church of Christ, organized by Dr. Kesho Scott. Photo contributed by Ahon Gooptu.

This letter was provided by the Committee to Reimagine Policing in Grinnell. The Committee read this letter to the Grinnell City Council at their June 15 meeting. The City Council and Police Department released a joint statement on June 13 about their plan to develop a task force to re-examine police practices in Grinnell, which you can read here.

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 ( 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, before 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 to learn how they can get involved.


The Committee to Reimagine Policing in Grinnell

Erin Bustin

Tina Elfenbein

Lily Hamilton

Jennie Jackson

Kirsten Klepfer

Maggie Levandoski

Todd Reding

Kesho Scott

Vicky Springer

Laurel Strand-Crawford

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