The tug-of-war of words over the impact of Iowa City’s so-called 21-only ordinance reached a new level Monday as those opposed to the new law alleged the Iowa City Police Department is purchasing new riot gear to help bust up neighborhood house parties.
“I’m not going to be a conspiracy theorist or anything like that but I just think that they’re obviously seeing something that leads them to believe that they need this equipment,” said Matt Pfaltzgraf, campaign manager for the anti-21-only YESS group.
Sergeant Denise Brotherton said the department does need the new equipment to upgrade its current gear and to provide protective equipment to its new officers; however, she dismissed Pfaltzgraf’s statement that police may need to use the gear to help officers stop house parties as “absurd.”
“I think it’s trying to illicit fear in the community that’s not necessary,” she said. “It’s deceptive in how it’s written… It was just thrown out there to stir up emotions.”
Sgt. Brotherton said the police department has been working since May 2009 to purchase the new gear. It has taken more than a year to complete the paperwork process, conduct product research, secure grant money to fund the new equipment, and put it out for a public bid.
“This is our chance to upgrade what we have [and to] get us some better coverage,” Sgt. Brotherton said. “It is not in response to any past event or in anticipation of a future event.”
Pfaltzgraf said he wrote the release as a way to inform the community about what the police department is purchasing.He based his information on “coincidence” between the timing of gear police are seeking to purchase and what he considers to be an uptick in the number of house parties since the 21-only law went into effect.
“Do I have like an email or a memo saying this is for keeping riots down? No, but I think it’s pretty easy to connect the two,” he said.
Sgt. Brotherton said she cannot think of a house party that would require officers to don riot gear, which she claims is generally used for a “significant event.”
“I haven’t seen that situation,” she said. “I wouldn’t expect to see that situation.”