Judge Rules Against Des Moines Police Public Information Officer in Open Records Lawsuit

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines Police Department has lost a lawsuit over open records. A district court judge fined Sgt. Paul Parizek, the department’s public information officer, for failure to turn over body camera video from the October 2018 arrest of Brian Bell.

The bodycam video shows officers approaching Brian Bell near the downtown Farmers’ Market after police received multiple calls about erratic behavior from a Black man. Bell doesn’t appear to be acting aggressive at this point.

Police tried to handcuff him, but Bell resisted and was shocked with a taser.

The incident caught the eye of retired attorney and civil rights activist Harvey Harrison, who has been studying racial bias in police systems for years. He requested records on the case but did not get the bodycam video.

Harrison sued Parizek, accusing him of violating Iowa’s open record laws.

“It’s one of the changes that need to be made for policing in Des Moines. We need a whole lot more transparency from top to bottom in how the police department functions,” said Harrison.

Following the ruling, Parizek said, “With regard to the Iowa Open Records law, the City of Des Moines and the Des Moines Police Department always operate with the intended goal of being in compliance with Chapter 22, keeping our community informed about the how and why of our service delivery, while being compassionate and respecting the rights, privacy and dignity of persons charged with crime, victims of crime, and persons reporting crime.”

City Manager Scott Sanders tells WHO 13 the city is still reviewing whether to appeal the ruling. The judge has not yet ruled on legal fees, making it unclear how much the lawsuit will cost the city.

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