by Ajai Dittmar
I was born in Cedar Rapids, but my little brother was born in Fort Hood Texas where my father was stationed when he served in the United States Army.
My godparents still reside in Texas where my godfather has served as a police officer for more than twenty five years. My mother has also worked as a police dispatcher sometimes I went to work with her.
One of the most important things I took away from my experiences from living in Texas is an exclusive understanding about what life was like behind the ‘blue curtain’.
For those of you who don’t know what the ‘blue curtain’ is- it is best explained as the unique subculture of Law Enforcement Officers and their families. They have each other’s backs and some will cover for others simply because of this unique bond and to protect the department’s reputation.
A formal written request for an outside investigation is being formulated as I speak by a group that was created in December 2010, called copwatchers, this group has 61 members from all walks of life who are concerned about the conduct of the CRPD. Several members have contacted the State Ombudsman requesting that an outside investigation be conducted.
Even though we have the second largest city in the state members of the copwatcher group were told by the Ombudsman’s office that they do not have the resources to conduct such an investigation. The Ombudsman office suggested we talk about these issues at a public City Council meeting.
Our copwatcher forum conducted a survey asking what issues people thought needed to be addressed. The top three concerns pertain to public relations, internal affairs, and policy on high speed pursuits.
While we like the idea of a citizen review board we would like to know who would pick the members what kind of people would be sought to serve and how would we know that chosen members are not related to people who serve in law enforcement.
The majority of our group feels that it is unethical for the police to investigate themselves.
For example when the ‘sleepy’ officer was identified Sgt. Hamblin said
“Whatever results from any internal investigation, the results are not likely to be made public”. She continued to say that “if an employee of any private company gets disciplined, those details aren’t usually shared with co-workers. The same rule applies to police officers.”
Since when have the police had the privacy of a private company? Do we not pay their salary?
Who holds the police accountable when the police don’t hold themselves or each other responsible for their actions?
When the unidentified CRPD k-9 Officer was caught at the bar in Marion he was not charged with an OWI even though he was clearly intoxicated. The Cedar Rapids police was notified about this incident the same day it happened yet it took 20-days for it to become public.
Hamblin declined to say if the officer had already been interviewed, saying it was a confidential personnel matter. She said investigators would be talking to any witnesses they can.
Hamblin was quoted as saying “Any time there’s an incident with an officer, we investigate it just like a criminal matter, not because it was, but because there are things that are against our policies,” Hamblin said. “We hold ourselves to a higher standard.” Aren’t criminals listed in the newspaper within days after they break the law? Why is it that they are not held to the same standard as the public? Do they not live by the same rules the rest of us are obligated to abide by?
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
I have a great deal of respect for people who chose the path of a public servant and do my best to respect people who have sworn to uphold the United States Constitution. I have my degree in criminal justice. I have taken both law enforcement and corrections courses and I graduated with honors and have to say that it is my opinion the public’s opinion of the police will not change nor will our city will become a safer place until these critical internal issues are resolved