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Iowa State Daily

‘Demanding things isn’t the way to make change’: ISUPD responds to Color of Love


While reviewing the incident involving Dariq Myles and Officer Frankie Contreras on Aug. 12, Iowa State University Police Department (ISUPD) Chief Michael Newton said it was determined excessive force was not used. 

Body and dash camera footage was uploaded to YouTube in late January and showed the officer taking Myles to the ground during a traffic stop. Myles had been pulled over for tinted windows, and he sustained injuries that required surgery to repair his torn labrum. 

Myles said he feels disappointed by the internal review and disagrees with the department’s ruling that the instance was not an excessive use of force. 

“We live in a time in society when a man in my situation was supposed to be killed,” Myles said. “Because I wasn’t shot or I wasn’t severely injured, even though it was a serious injury, it’s not excessive force.”

More information regarding the dashcam footage can be read in an Iowa State Daily article published Jan. 25.  

Use of force and response to resistance

ISUPD defines a use-of-force incident as anything above compliant handcuffing. Those incidents are immediately flagged, and the involved officer goes through a use-of-force review process. The officer’s supervisor starts the review, which then gets escalated to the captain of the area. From there, the review goes to Assistant Chief Carrie Jacobs, and after, Newton.

There is a threshold of what instances are looked at internally versus externally. 

“If that use of force led to an officer-involved shooting or a death, we would not investigate on our own; those would be sent to the Division of Criminal Investigations through the state to be investigated,” Newton said. 

A use-of-force review was done regarding the instance involving Contreras and Myles in August. 

“During the review, we found that the force used wasn’t excessive based on the behaviors of the individual,” Newton said. “A video only shows you certain dimensions. You don’t know all those factors that go in, so sometimes it can be misleading when you see things from different perspectives and angles.”

Jamie Borden, a source recommended by ISUPD, is the founder of the critical incident review organization and gave insight into the officer’s perspective on what was captured on camera. Specifically, he noted the perceived compliance by Myles.

“Even though it looks like some level of compliance if it’s not exactly what the officer was saying, it’s not considered compliance from the officer’s perspective,” Borden said. 

According to Borden, dashcam footage is an essential piece of evidence but does not show every side. Simply looking at the footage is an unstable and incomplete way to conduct an investigation. 

“They’re a profound piece of evidence; there’s no doubt about it,” Borden said. “But they are so limited in what they capture based on the officer’s decision-making process that we can’t make a standalone judgment on that one piece of evidence.” 

Myles believes the department has admitted their wrongdoings through their response to the incident. 

“The police department acknowledged that it wasn’t excessive use of force but once again, in the same breath, said he acknowledged he could have handled the situation better and could use more training in this field,” Myles said. “Once again, tell me you’re saying you’re wrong without me telling you saying you’re wrong.”

Response to Color of Love

Newton wrote an email Feb. 8 in response to the letters delivered to the Armory during the Feb. 1 protest; he focused on addressing many of the concerns raised by Color of Love students. 

“We understand our community has high expectations of our department. We strive every day to serve and protect members of our community and to meet or exceed their expectations,” Newton stated in the letter.

Newton also stated that their work is “not always perfect” but that, as an organization, they “continually strive to achieve the high standards we set for ourselves.”

“That includes having our police officers go through rigorous annual training on the use of force and de-escalation techniques,” Newton stated.

Myles is also frustrated he is still dealing with some of the ramifications of the situation in August 2023. He is enrolled in physical therapy and will continue treatment until August 2024. 

“He gets to go to work every single day,” Myles said. “Why do I have to go through medical bills and expenses that I’m starting to not be able to afford? But I’m a big believer in God. I don’t know how to figure it out, but I know it’ll figure itself out.” 

At the end of Newton’s email to the Color of Love students, he expressed gratitude for allowing the department to respond. 

“Thank you for the opportunity to respond. Our department is always open to listening to experiences, concerns and suggestions that help us improve public safety on campus,” Newton stated.

Color of Love member Lyric Sellers did not expect him to say much differently in his response. 

“Being the police chief and representing the police department, you’re going to still talk about your department in a way that’s positive and in a good light because you’re representing them,” Sellers said. 

Color of Love plans to stay true to their mission of advocacy. As long as students come to the organization with things they want to organize around, Color of Love will work with them to fight for their rights. 

“We just want to stay consistent, and our message is the police system is not one that is equitable for all students because there are a lot of students that don’t feel comfortable with police,” Sellers said. “They don’t feel safe when it comes to police response, and so again, just reiterating the fact that it is a systemic, ugly, racist institution.”

Color of Love is planning to send a response to Newton. 

Newton encourages students who want to engage in conversations to join the student advisory board. The board is there to help the department understand how the students are feeling and what the student perspective is. 

“If I could help students in one way, I would love to teach them that demanding things isn’t the way to make change,” Newton said. “I think we can sit down and have conversations, and I think there’s a way that we can make change, but we have to do it together.”

In the rest of the email, Newton acknowledged the concerns the group brought up during the protest. 

ISUPD’s responses to the concerns raised by Color of Love are as follows:

Diversion program

The Iowa State Daily published an article in February breaking down the diversion and alternative resolution programs at Iowa State and Story County.

Diversion or alternative resolutions are offered to low-level and nonviolent offenders as a way to avoid severe legal consequences. Instead of facing jail time, offenders participating in the program will meet with licensed professionals who aid them in analyzing their behavior and encourage them to make changes moving forward. 

ISUPD leadership is currently in the process of meeting with leadership from the Story County program. Newton and Jacobs sat down with program coordinator Shelby Gibson to discuss plans moving forward for building a relationship with the county program. 

ISUPD participates in the post-arrest side of the alternative resolutions program. Moving forward, the department hopes to participate in the pre-arrest side of things. 

“One of the things I heard in what the students were asking us for when they came here was they want to see less police, less dollar spent on policing, but I don’t think they understand or in their terms law enforcement, but law enforcement is one small component of what we do in policing,” Newton said. “Some of our funds are diverted to other areas that aren’t about law enforcement, like our mental health advocates.”

Allocation of funds

ISUPD allocates its funding in several ways. While most of the funding is diverted to law enforcement, there are several other different programs the department funds. Out of a roughly $7 million dollar budget, about $1 million is diverted toward various programs. ISUPD did not provide a detailed breakdown of its budget but instead gave estimates.

“It depends on the year, and it depends on the activity,” Newton said. 

One central area of focus is on mental health and providing resources to the community. Some of this funding allows for the department to staff two mental health advocates. The department allocates roughly $200,000 for its mental health staff and training, according to Newton. That total does not include the outreach work regarding mental health-related programming. 

“We made a conscious effort of taking funds that are in most people’s minds allocated to the police and diverting them into other programming that we knew was important to our community,” Newton said. “That’s about being community-oriented.”

One community-oriented program, SafeRide, costs the department between $250,000 and $300,000 annually, according to Newton. Along with SafeRide, part of the department’s funding goes toward the Iowa State Safe App, which totals $90,000, self-defense courses and training and the 15 nurses who serve on the sexual assault response team. Roughly $50,000 is allocated to the sexual assault response team. 

ISUPD also diverts some of its allocated funds to continue to support Alternative Response for Community Health (ARCH). The ARCH program is a partnership between Mary Greeley Medical Center, Ames Police Department and ISUPD that pairs EMS providers with social workers to avoid unnecessary police presence. 

“While we don’t use ARCH as much as our counterparts in the city because we have other resources on campus, we had an instance the other day where we knew that bringing law enforcement into the equation was going to make the person feel even more insecure,” Newton said. “Introducing a cop into that scenario isn’t going to be the right piece for us.”

Quota System

ISUPD does not have a quota they require their officers to meet. Quota systems are illegal nationally. Iowa code 321.492A prohibits any agencies from having quotas in place: 

“A political subdivision or agency of the state shall not order, mandate, require or in any other manner, directly or indirectly, suggest to a peace officer employed by the political subdivision or agency that the peace officer shall issue a certain number of traffic citations, police citations, memorandums of traffic violations or memorandums of faulty equipment on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly basis,” the statute states.

“We don’t evaluate our officers based on that,” Newton said. “I value somebody going out and giving a presentation or doing community service just as much as I value them going out and making a traffic stop.”

Any parking tickets and fines go directly back into the parking division to improve parking lot conditions. 

Collection of demographic data

The Daily published an article in October breaking down the new transparency dashboards available on ISUPD’s website

The dashboards provide the community with real-time access to statistics on campus crime records, including available demographic data. That data does not typically include race breakdowns.

“The tricky part of the demographics is the state of Iowa doesn’t mandate that you put a race on your driver’s license,” Newton said. “We don’t generally ask people what race they are because it’s just not a question that’s helpful or matters in the situation that we have at the time.”

In the future, ISUPD hopes to launch several more dashboards, including one breaking down responses to resistance and use of force incidents. Currently, only dashboards breaking down calls for service and arrests are available to the public.

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