Des Moines Police Station

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Des Moines City Council on Monday night approved the first consideration of a ban on racial profiling by police by a 7 to 0 vote.

The Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission started to work on the proposed ordinance in 2018 well before the civil unrest and protests over police brutality in recent days.

“While we took a significant step toward a racial profiling ban, it’s important that over the next two weeks, we continue to listen to our community leaders and how we might strengthen this ordinance,” Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said. “In the end, we all want to see an ordinance that will bring positive change and understanding in our city.”

The city and commission worked with a consortium, including groups such as the ACLU, NAACP, and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, to strengthen the ordinance.

The proposed ordinance is scheduled for its second consideration, along with public input, on the regularly scheduled city council meeting on June 22.

The city council also passed resolutions directing the City Manager to include implicit bias training, de-escalation training, and cultural competency training in employee training/education programs. The city council also seeks the determination of best practices for research and data collection methods concerning law and code enforcement.

The policy statement within the ordinance reads, “The City of Des Moines and the Des Moines Police Department shall be committed to the unbiased, equitable treatment of all. Department employees shall treat all in a fair, impartial and objective manner, in accordance with law, and without consideration of their individual demographics as defined in this Article.”

The ordinance says racial profiling is a “form of biased policing where a motivating factor of the action taken is based on an individual’s race, color, ethnicity, religion or national origin rather than on the individual’s behavior or on information of the type and kind customarily and reasonably relied upon in identifying the individual as having engaged in prohibited activity.”

It states that racial profiling includes, but is not limited to vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle stops where race, color, ethnicity, religion or national origin was the motivating factor for the law enforcement officer’s top or action taken during the stop.

The ordinance also prohibits pretextual stops that are allowed under state and federal law.

City and police department employees are required to report incidents of racial profiling to their immediate supervisor. They are also required to intervene where possible. Supervisors are required to ensure a workplace free of bias and racial profiling. Supervisors are to file any complaints with the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) or Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission. They then forward the complaint to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, who has jurisdiction over racial profiling complaints. OPS will also conduct an investigation.

If the complaint is substantiated, according to the ordinance, the police department must take appropriate measures based on the severity of the claim.

The ordinance must pass the second consideration and third reading for it to go into effect.

Read the proposed ordinance below:

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