Iowa Racial Profiling Bill Fails to Meet Funnel Deadline; Advocates React

Politics

DES MOINES, Iowa — Pro-police aspects of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ keynote priority “Back the Blue Act” have made it through the funnel deadline at the Statehouse, except the provision to ban racial profiling, which never even had a subcommittee hearing.

In both the Iowa House and Senate, Republicans divided up parts of her package into several other provisions. Most bills had to pass out of committee by Friday in order to still be eligible to become law.

The 28-page bill, Senate Study Bill 1140, encompasses the Republican governor’s effort to build on the police reform law she signed in June of 2020, following nationwide calls to action after the killing of George Floyd.

Civil rights advocates have criticized the legislation since it was first introduced. In a Thursday press conference, the Iowa Legislative Black Caucus called on the Republican governor to reject the bill without the anti-racial profiling provision.

Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, said the bills counteract the progress toward equity that was made when the legislature unanimously passed the legislation aimed at adding more accountability measures for law enforcement in June.

“This legislation should not pass without including anti-racial profiling language,” Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, said. “It should not pass without implicit bias training being part of this ‘Back the Blue’ package.”

When unveiling her bill during her Condition of State, the governor said the bill would continue Iowa’s march toward racial equality, while also protecting police officers.

“Until our governor stands up to her promises and includes language that ensures our communities of color are safe and not subjected to racial profiling as she promised, I’m gonna ask she vetos the legislation,” Smith said.

Smith has criticized Reynolds’ proposal since it was first introduced, calling it “divisive” in a tweet from Jan 13.

In a call with reporters, Speaker of the House Pat Grassley said there was not enough support from the Public Safety Committee to bring the racial profiling bill forward, which was introduced by a Democrat.

“There was some concern as far as what the impacts may be and how that would impact law enforcement their ability to do their job,” Grassley said.

Under the measure, Iowa would have adopted a statutory ban on disparate treatment by law enforcement based on race and other demographics. It would have also required law enforcement agencies to report race and ethnicity data on traffic stops. That process would have been automated by the Iowa Department of Transportation, which would ask people for their race and ethnicity when obtaining a drivers’ license. That information would not appear on the license itself.

In the final House Public Safety Committee on Thursday, the chair — Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota — responded to Democrats’ criticism of excluding the racial profiling ban.

“This is not the governor’s bill. This is our bill. This is the Public Safety Committee in the House’s bill that is meant to support law enforcement,” he said.

Republicans advanced pro-police aspects from the governor’s original package — including establishing more penalties for assaulting officers, giving civil remedies for officers who believe a false complaint was filed against them, and denying state funding to cities and counties that “defund” police departments.

 “At a time when other states are demonizing law enforcement and forcing good ones out, we have an opportunity to bring the good ones here,” Klein said. “Let’s bring the good ones here. Let’s pass legislation that supports good law enforcement officers.”

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