The Iowa City Police Department is updating its arrest policy to emphasize communication after a cell phone video surfaced online. The footage, filmed last month, shows the arrest of a 15-year-old black male by white police officer, Travis Graves, at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center.
In the video Officer Travis Graves is on top of the teen, yelling “put your hands behind your back,” and the teen replies that he can’t. An online petition says the officer used excessive force because the teen was black.
Police Chief Sam Hargadine says while the arrest was legal and follows department policy, he agrees the video is not the "department’s finest moment," saying there were other ways to deal with the situation. Policy now emphasizes de-escalation during arrests.
"He would have had a little more verbal interaction with the young man, and explain the consequences. You know, 'I need you to leave, and failure to do so, I'm going to have to place you under arrest'" says Hargadine. "Now he'd already indicated multiple times that it was time to go. However, there could have been a little more interaction on our part."
Hargadine also says the cell video does not provide a complete picture of what occurred before the arrest.
"There's surveillance video from the rec center that shows a lot more," says Hargadine. "Prior to the officer making the arrest...there was a lot of horseplay. There was a lot of people hanging off the stairwell, which is dangerous. They were basically unsupervised and asking to get in trouble."
The police chief declined to comment on whether Graves received disciplinary action since that is a personnel issue. The officer has received additional training on de-escalation, especially when dealing with juveniles.