The request to change the Waterloo Police Department patch or logo has been met with passion on both sides of the argument. People have been vocal on social media. They have sent letters to the Waterloo City Council. Council members have seemingly received hundreds of calls.
But not all contact has been to voice opinions. Some contact has been to make personal attacks.
“I’ve been threatened this week. I’ve been told that I am not safe. And I’ve been told by people who don’t have the courage to name themselves that I’m a despicable human being,” said Council member Jonathan Grieder, who had submitted “Resolution Ordering the Waterloo Police to Develop a New Insignia.”
Grieder noted he has also been called a coward, a socialist, anti-police, anti-American and worse. All of which has been in response to this resolution requiring the Waterloo Police Department to replace the image of the griffin logo. The logo has received criticism over the years for its design and color similarities to a KKK grand dragon image.
But Grieder did not let that deter him from his commitment to the resolution.
On Monday night, the passion around the issue continued at the Waterloo City Council meeting, where the resolution was on the agenda. The meeting was packed, with approximately 45 people in person and 50-60 on Zoom. By the time attendees began sharing their opinions, nearly 100 were on Zoom and those attending in person had spilled from the chambers into the hall.
After four hours, 38 people had voiced their opinions. Bursts of applause, mainly from those wanting to keep the current design, followed many speakers in the room. The Zoom chat was alive with comments from those passionate about replacing the griffin.
Nineteen to 20 were for keeping the current logo. One attendee, Rob Camaratta, who stated he was representing the officers, used the cost of $82,130 to replace the logo on handguns and clothing (not cars) vs. the cost of a hiring a new officer at $56,000/year as justification.
Many others expressed the sense of pride associated with the image.
“When they wear those patches and I see that griffin come down the street,” said Dawn Henry, who’d grown up in a family of police officers, “I know I’m safe. Because I haven’t done anything that makes me not safe. And I just cannot understand why people all of a sudden, out of nowhere in 2020, the year where everything has just gone crazy, all of a sudden, ‘oh, we took offense with the griffin.’”
To the 18 people who spoke up for replacing the griffin, most of whom were African American, the reasons Henry gave are why they want the griffin—an image many feel bears a close resemblance to the Ku Klux Klan grand dragon emblem—gone.
“This conversation is not new between the department and black leadership,” said Tavis Hall, one of the co-authors of the opinion piece others referred to. “It is simply new to the general public …Our call over the years has been simple, to change the patch. When many black folks see that symbol on the side of a police car, it conjures an emotional response rooted in our nation’s ugly sins of racism and oppression. To see that imagery on the side of a car driven by those we employ to protect and serve does not help make Black folks in the city feel welcome, feel empowered, or feel proud.”
Many in the Black community have heard the passionate defense of the griffin and the vehement desire to keep it repeatedly stated with little consideration of the negative effect it has on them.
Cam Campbell, an employee of the Department of Correctional Services and a social worker by trade, sought to address this by a series of questions for those against changing the image.
“Why are people so unsettled by the request for change? If someone tells you that what you’re doing and what you are wearing or what you’re wearing is offending them, how can you be so insensitive to that?” she asked. “Are we more committed to the patch and this symbol or are we committed to the citizens of this community? Because based upon the conversation that we’ve been having for the last couple of hours, I’m confused.”
Campbell added that she tries to be solution-focused and encouraged others to do so.
“I feel like that’s where everybody needs to be tonight,” she said. “Like, how can we be solution-focused? How do we make this a win-win on both ends, in addition to pondering all of those questions that I asked before now?”
After all opinions had been heard, the Council focused their attention on a solution—voting on the resolution.
The resolution was on its way to passing the first round by a majority vote (4-2) until Council member Sharon Juon spoke. Juon expressed understanding of both sides and proposed amending the resolution as a compromise that would satisfy both. The revised resolution would entail the creation of a small balanced committee of 8-10 members appointed by the Mayor. The committee would be tasked with revising the current griffin or choosing a new image. All members would have to agree on the proposed image, determine the replacement cost in time for 2021 budgeting process, and submit a final report for approval to the committee by June 30, 2021.
All Council members agreed with the changes.
It was unclear what those attending thought of the decision. The Zoom chat was turned off. The chambers were quiet.
“It’s been 56 years,” said Hall. “There’s a process, after 56 years, for us to actually be heard. Obviously, the ideal is to simply remove, but this provides us with an opportunity to listen to input—we’re able to listen to concerns the same way we’ve advocated for our voices to be heard for 56 years.”
The Council also passed the “ordinance amending the policies, practices, and duties of the Waterloo Police Department” and “an ordinance enacting a new changing station requirement to certain facilities.”
by Rachelle Chase
Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.