Racial profiling bill advances in Iowa Senate

The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Racial profiling by police officers would be banned and departments would be required to collect data to identify potential profiling under legislation that advanced Wednesday in the Iowa Senate.

But state lawmakers shelved a bill that would have made police body camera footage open to the public and required it be saved for at least six months. Legislators instead deferred to a separate proposal to study police body camera policies after this year’s session.

The bills were among many criminal justice reform proposals that lawmakers are considering this year.

“Iowa ranks at the top of the criminal justice disparities when it comes to African Americans and other minorities in the criminal justice system, and it is extremely important that Iowa make bold moves and take on measures that would allow us to reduce these disparities,” said Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP, during a legislative hearing.

The racial profiling bill would prohibit profiling, which the bill defines as an officer initiating enforcement based on any of a number of superficial characteristics, among them race, religion, ethnicity and gender.

The bill also would require police departments to collect data on officer stops and complaints and the state attorney general’s office to monitor the data for trends that might show profiling.

The bill also would create an advisory board to gather law enforcement and community leaders to discuss profiling.


“I’ve been stopped doing 65 (mph) in a 65 (speed limit zone), 54 in a 55, 30 in a 30, and at a gas station. … So I’m concerned about this issue,” said Eddie Andrews, a black man from Des Moines and husband of the NAACP’s Betty Andrews.

Multiple law enforcement groups oppose the bill over what they said were onerous reporting requirements.

Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, said he opposes the bill for the same reasons.

“This is obviously a very substantial cost to taxpayers … and puts substantially more burden on law enforcement,” Garrett said. “I don’t want to be inhibiting (law enforcement officers) from doing their job because of all the red tape.”

Sen. Steve Sodders, a Democrat from State Center and a deputy sheriff in Marshall County, said he plans on Thursday to pass the racial profiling bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee that he chairs.

Sodders said the legislation will require significant alterations before it is considered for floor debate, which would be its next step in the legislative process. With a key legislative deadline looming, Sodders wants to keep the bill alive but also address concerns, including potential costs and privacy considerations.

Sodders said he hopes interested parties on both sides of the bill will work together on its content.

“I would like law enforcement, NAACP and all those folks to sit down and talk about what’s the best avenue,” Sodders said.

Sodders canceled a preliminary hearing on a bill that would have made police body camera footage an open record and would require recordings to be saved for at least six months.


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Sodders deferred to legislation passed in the Senate on Wednesday that calls for an interim committee to study the storage, retention, public inspection and confidentiality of police body camera images.

“It really needs a lot more study,” said Sen. Robert Dvorsky, D-Coralville, who shepherded the bill, which was proposed by the state Public Information Board. “I think there’s an enormous amount of ramifications (and) privacy issues, then enormous issues dealing with record-keeping, when you keep that much video.”



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