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Incoming Iowa City police chief will join for later stages of reform discussion

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Liston web edited
Dustin Liston as a lieutenant in the El Paso Police Department

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - When Dustin Liston takes over as the next police chief of Iowa City, a lot of groundwork for reforming the city's police department will already have passed.

December 15 is the deadline city councilors gave the city manager's office in June, for an initial report on big time reforms for the department. City staff is working on a better community policing model for the city.

To get a pulse for what people want in these reforms, city councilors have hosted several "listening posts" around town since September. They've covered different topics like mental health emergencies, homelessness and sexual assault.

"I think it's really important that we have more of these," Amel Ali said, who spoke at one of the listening posts recently.

Liston's first day will be January 11 but City Manager Geoff Fruin says he expects the plan to need several rounds of community input, amendments and review. Fruin says that will give Liston time to make his mark.

"It is expected that the preliminary report will be vetted by the City Council and broader Iowa City community for several months," Fruin said in a statement to KWWL Monday.

"I fully expect Chief Liston will be able to share his ideas and suggestions before the plan is finally approved," Fruin continued.

Liston, who'll finish the year as a lieutenant in the El Paso Police Department, told KWWL earlier this month his current department has done many of the things Iowa City is considering.

One example is pairing mental health professionals with police for service calls to deescalate situations and emphasize care options for people.

Liston said Monday night he plans to make the most of his involvement in the current reform process.

"I know the December report is a preliminary plan and I expect to be fully engaged with the final plan upon my employment with the department in January," Liston said.

"People are going to hold him accountable," Ali said, who moved to Iowa City from Sudan in 2000.

She hopes city staff continue to look for ways to improve the department, not just at this one juncture.

Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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