DES MOINES, Iowa -- It is a fight that many like Sharon Zanders-Ackiss wishes Des Moines didn't need. "It's 2019 and it is sad that these are the steps we have to take in order to protect our citizens," she said. Zanders-Ackiss is a special projects director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and believes creating a city ban on racial profiling is vital. "We have nothing currently to hold anyone accountable that is utilizing this abuse being above the law."
A recent racial profiling lawsuit settlement after a Des Moines traffic stop last July has helped spark a proposal that's made its way to the city Civil and Human Rights Commission. "We have to call a spade a spade. The city, the police department has had incidents of racial profiling. Let's outlaw it. Let's help them do better. Let's get them trained up so they can do better," said Civil and Human Rights Commission Chair Kameron Middlebrooks
The city legal department drafted the plan. Zanders-Ackiss said, "It was weak at best."
Many attendees were displeased in the profiling ban encompassing all city employees, taking pressure off of the police. "I'm not interested in how many people complained about a clerk being rude. What we are concerned about is how often does a person feel they've been profiled by the Des Moines Police Department," said Zanders-Ackiss. Also absent, the banning of pre-textual stops. "We know that often times young black men in particular are stopped because of pre-textual stops," Zanders-Ackiss said.
Middlebrooks hopes an ordinance could include tracking of stops publicly. He said, "I also want to track the data. They want to see who's getting stopped when they are getting stopped and why they are getting stopped. They also want track incidents where citations are not being given out." The proposal also limited complaints to a sixty day window. The city website currently allows for 300 days and no time limit for police complaints. "I think sixty days is a very short window of time. Sometimes people don't even know where to go," said Zanders-Ackiss.
The city Civil and Human Rights Commission will continue to use community input to create a proposal fit for a city council vote. A vote that those in favor of it believe can transform Des Moines. Zanders-Ackiss said, "Our city council would become champions on this issue and set the example for other areas across the state."
The Civil and Human Rights Commission will also push for police to go through de-escalation training on an annual basis. The commission plans to revisit the racial profiling ban proposal again on July 11th.