Laura Bergus

Iowa City leaders will meet today at 3 p.m. to consider restructuring the city’s police department and one council member is calling for a serious discussion about abolishing the police department.

In an opinion piece published in The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Councilmember Laura Bergus wrote that policing relies on a system of force and violence, which she says cannot be undone.

“I just want to start the conversation, as I said in the piece, about imagining a future where public safety isn’t provided by armed police,” Bergus says. “I believe that modern policing isn’t a sustainable model.”

A different policing system can replace the current one, she says, built on addressing basic human needs and diverting calls for service to other unarmed professionals. The opinion piece has already drawn backlash from the right and the left, but Bergus hopes a good faith, big-picture discussion is possible.

“I guess I just hope that anyone who sees and hears this conversation approaches it with an open mind and an open heart and a consideration for what’s possible in our community in the future,” she says. In the article, Bergus says, “Nearly every level of police violence is enshrined in the law. If an officer oversteps, accountability is rare.”

(By Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio/Bergus photo from Iowa-City)