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State panel: Iowa should track & analyze racial profiling, ban disparate treatment by law enforcement

Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg & Governor Kim Reynolds at a COVID-19 press conference in March.

DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) — Iowa lawmakers should pass legislation banning disparate treatment by law enforcement, require and automate data collection on race/ethnicity from law enforcement stops, analyze and study the resulting data, and provide annual reports on the findings, according to a final proposal from Governor Reynolds’ FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform.

The 15-member state panel led by Iowa’s Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg approved the recommendations Friday. Reynolds presented the findings at Thursday’s Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities.

Reynolds announced at last year’s summit the committee would be charged with making recommendations for building an unbiased criminal justice system in Iowa. The recommendations could become part of the Governor’s priorities for the next legislative session.

“Taken together, these recommendations would represent another historic step forward in Iowa’s leadership in civil rights and criminal justice reform,” Governor Reynolds said. “I look forward to reviewing the committee’s recommendations as I lay out my 2021 legislative agenda and move criminal justice reform forward. I would also like to thank Lt. Gov Adam Gregg and all of the Governor’s FOCUS committee members for their work this year.”

Besides chairman Adam Gregg, the board is made up of 14 other members:

  • Department of Corrections Director Dr. Beth Skinner
  • Board of Parole Chair Helen Miller
  • Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens
  • Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Director Judy Bradshaw
  • State Public Defender Jeff Wright
  • Department of Correctional Services, 6th Judicial District Director Bruce Vander Sanden
  • Iowa-Nebraska NAACP President Betty Andrews
  • Commission of Latino Affairs Member Rev. Alfonso Perez
  • Right on Crime, National Director of Reentry Initiatives John Koufos
  • Office of the AG, Crime Victims Assistance Division Director Janelle Melohn
  • Marshall County Attorney Jennifer Miller
  • Ankeny Police Chief Darius Potts
  • Scott County Sheriff Tim Lane
  • Urban Dreams Executive Director Izaah Knox

“In Iowa, we tackle tough issues head-on,” Lt. Gov. Gregg said. “The Governor asked us to take on some of the most challenging issues with this commission. I’m grateful for the frank and productive discussions we had as well as the willingness of everyone to coalesce around some solid recommendations.”

The main recommendations include:

  • Adopting a statutory ban on disparate treatment by law enforcement based on race, creed, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or any other identifiable characteristics;
  • Requiring law enforcement agencies to report racial data on the people they stop;
  • Automating the data collection as much as possible by embedding race information in a person’s driver’s license card data. This data would be voluntarily provided on your driver’s license;
  • Adding members to the state’s Justice Advisory Board that better reflect relevant stakeholders and community members, renaming it the “Justice and Community Policing Advisory Board” and forming a Community Policing Committee within the board;
  • Tasking that board with advising the rules for collecting stop data, assessing the data annually and issuing an annual report;
  • Sharing those reports with the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy so they can assess training practices and determine if the requirements are effective at reducing disparate treatment.

The recommendations are not in the form of a formal bill, which means specific details will be left to the state legislature to determine.

16 states currently ban racial profiling and it is also banned at the federal level, according to the report. A violation of the ban would be the basis “for an administrative personnel action against a public safety employee and any civil remedies under state or federal law.”

The data collection process would use TraCS, a database maintained by the Iowa Department of Transportation. For those who voluntarily provide their race and ethnicity information, the system would automatically add that information into a report when an officer scans their license. For those who don’t provide this information, officers would need to enter their perception of the person’s race or ask them for their race directly, which the report says risks an escalation of the interaction.

The annual reports issued by the board would be made public. The report also says the state should provide matching grant funding to law enforcement agencies to conduct their own independent research on racial disparities in traffic stops to provide more data for state and local lawmakers to consider. These reports would also be made public.

The full report can be found here:

KTTC

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