Taking the Lead 2020: Ames and Iowa State Police Department Chiefs speak on transparency and accountability


The president of the NAACP Edna Clinton hosted a town hall Zoom with the goal to create better criminal justice and social justice policies for the city of Ames. Iowa State Police Chief Michael Newton said he is working with the Iowa State Police Department communication staff to figure out how to effectively intervene in a biased phone call.

The president of the NAACP Edna Clinton hosted a town hall Zoom with the goal to create better criminal justice and social justice policies for the city of Ames.

Iowa State University’s Diversity and Inclusion Vice President Reginald Stewart, Ames Mayor John Haila, Ames Police Chief Charles Cychosz and Iowa State Police Chief Michael Newton were all speakers during the Zoom meeting.

The goals for adapting the social justice and criminal justice policies came from the Ames City Council that related to diversity and inclusion rules to create an encouraging environment for the people in the community.

Haila said he is committed to improving the important policies needed for the city to be a safe place for all citizens.

“We need to commit to working together to strengthen our community, in order that every person, regardless of their color, race, creed, sex, national origin, religion, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or socioeconomic status feel welcome and are treated equally here [in Ames],” Haila said. 

Questions were presented by the NAACP and taken from the former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s documents. Haila said the report was based around six pillars with the goal of building trust, legitimacy, policy, oversight as well as other aspects. 

Haila began the forum by asking the Ames Police Department’s transparency to demonstrate accountability in the community.  

“We’ve done various forums with the NAACP in the past with titles and content, focusing on knowing the rights in the criminal justice system and traffic software,” Cychosz said. “So, again, my expressing my appreciation for the members of the NAACP for stepping in and coming inside the department and helping us do the work that we do every day and getting a glimpse of the organization.” 

Cychosz said the Ames Police Department reaches out to the community through the Citizen Police Academy, which explains how the department works. 

“We have 470 routes to mentors, community members will bring a diverse experience and often a multicultural background to our outreach,” Cychosz said. “We’re trying to create opportunities to connect with our community and answer those questions to make people feel more comfortable around police officers and strike up that conversation about things that have been on their mind, so we interact with thousands of people throughout the course of the year.”

The next question that was poised discussed the police’s effort on handling citizens who report incidents of poisonous progress and use of force.

“Officers have to report anytime they use force, [for example] above compliant handcuffing, they’re required to report that and the supervisor has to review that incident whether somebody complains or not, we’re going to review that,” Newton said. “I can tell you in 2019, we had nine U.S. forces above combined handcuffing [and] in 2020 we’ve had two. So we don’t see a lot of force. Really for us, verbal escalation and our presence alone is generally enough to handle the situation.” 

The questions were gathered from the community beforehand. Of those, the Ames Police Department was asked if they ensure those who are wounded receive immediate medical attention. 

“If an officer is involved in supporting an incident injured or even my team or complains of injuring swelling,” Cychosz said. “We will call the paramedics, they will have a medical examination appropriate for that medical care for that condition. Absolutely. It’s a core principle that we trained for and that sense of humanity, that something caring about another person, is something we look for.” 

The topic then shifted toward the department’s efforts to determine racial attitudes of their employees, where Cychosz introduced the hiring and evaluation process of a potential officer for the Ames Police Department. 

“I’m passionate about this issue of trying to find and hire the right people and certain that our potential employees are coming in for the right reasons and they’re bringing a sense of compassion and caring to the job and they’re not bringing prejudice with them, we have to be vigilant about that,” Cychosz said.

Cychosz said the department performs background checks involving the applicant’s family, friends, community and social media accounts. Psychological testing and polygraphs are also used to avoid hiring the wrong person for the job.

“I want to tell you we have an extensive training program where we are deeply involved in implicit bias training and throwing out those things that we don’t even know about ourselves and exploring those and the implications for the work that we do,” Cychosz said. “So it starts before they’re hired and it doesn’t stop, we continue to do this work, we continue to train on this issue to understand it better and to look inside ourselves and understand how things we don’t even know of ourselves or each other can affect the way that we do our job.” 

Toward the end of the meeting, they discussed dealing with biased phone calls. Newton said he is working with the Iowa State Police Department communication staff to figure out how to effectively intervene in a biased phone call.

“We want to work through those callers’ perceptions of what leads them to call the police,” Newton said. “We want to try and understand that better and reach an objective conclusion as much as we can […] and it’s been, I think, a very productive conversation with our communication staff, our supervisors, and it’s caused us to reflect on ourselves, and it’s caused us to do some uncomfortable reflection on our community.”

The next panel will take place June 25, continuing the conversation about law enforcement. Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald will also speak on the issue. The town hall will also be broadcasted live on Mediacom Channel 12, livestreamed through the city’s website and YouTube channel.