DES MOINES, Iowa — A bill aimed at curbing racial profiling in Iowa is moving forward at the statehouse—a measure civil liberties groups hope will have real impacts in minority communities across the state.
Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, says her organization has been working for years to pass legislation in Iowa targeting racial profiling. A similar bill made some headway in the Iowa Senate last year, though it ultimately didn't get a floor vote.
Tuesday a panel of lawmakers paved the way for the bill to get a second look, giving it an initial stamp of approval at a subcommittee hearing.
Andrews said at the meeting that as many as 30 states have laws related to racial profiling, making Iowa an outlier. Iowa ranks among states with the highest ate of African American incarceration, according to a 2016 report by justice advocacy group The Sentencing Project.
"Iowa is one of the few states that doesn’t," Andrews said. "We believe that contributes very strongly to why Iowa ranks so high in criminal justice disparities when it comes to race.”
The bill would ban racial profiling—defining explicitly what is and isn't—and would require law enforcement training in order to prevent it.
The proposal would also establish a community policing advisory board to review traffic stop data annually in an effort to target potential patterns of profiling.
"We’ve heard lots of anecdotal stories of people of color across the state saying they’ve been racially profiled. When you don’t have data it makes it a 'he said, she said,'” said Daniel Zeno, policy director at the ACLU of Iowa.
Iowa State Sheriffs' & Deputies' Association and the Iowa Police Chief Association are registered against the legislation.
Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek declined to specifically talk about details of legislation until its final form, but noted decades-long diversity training and a recent policy targeting implicit bias within his department have enhanced their work.
“Good training is going to make good cops and that’s the bottom line," Parizek said. “I think anything the legislature does to provide clarification for people on either side of this, is going to be beneficial for all of us.”
The legislation now moves to a full committee for a vote.