On Tuesday, July 28 CCI’s racial justice team met with Des Moines Police Chief, Dana Wingert. This was an initial meeting – where we told racial profiling stories and stories about people’s experience with the complaint process, wanted to raise important questions and hear what the Chief will do to make sure all people are treated fairly by the police. We also presented what we want changed with the complaint process so everyone feels they can file a complaint and treated with respect when they do file.
There will be more meetings to come –we still have a lot of work to do but this was a good first step!
These are the questions we asked:
Do you believe racial profiling exists in Des Moines?
Chief Wingert said the DMPD has changed – the old officers, many who are now retired, had a warrior mentality. He said there are many young people on the force currently and they have a “progressive” mindset.
We asked this follow- up question – “have you ever worked with a racist police officer?” Chief Wingert and Officer Knox both said they haven’t worked with a racist officer in their history of working on the force. He said some officers past actions, though not racist, would not be allowed on the force currently.
What are you going to do so black mothers and fathers don’t have to have a conversation with their children about interacting with the police?
Chief Wingert talked about some of the things they’re currently doing: roundtable conversations with youth, getting youth and police officers together, having kids do ride-alongs with officers, and a new criminal justice class in public schools taught by officers.
Sharon then asked about how they’re connecting with the 20-30 year olds in the community. He said that’s a group of people they’re having trouble connecting with and they are open to ideas.
Do you have statistics on the number of stops, arrests and active complaints? Do you report these statistics to the Justice Department?
Yes, they record stats and are required by law to report stats to the Justice Department.
Every week, Wingerts gets a report of all officers regarding any excessive force used and complaints issued.
Do you ask specific questions about racism during the polygraph test officers receive?
Yes, they do ask specific questions about racism – such as “Are you a part of the KKK?” It is considered a medical test now and is one of the best tests the potential officer can receive to test racism, according to Wingert.
Other questions folks asked:
What sort of trainings do officers receive?
Every year there is a mandatory four hour sensitivity training session and he said there is a lot of training at the Police Academy. There is also crisis intervention (mental health) training.
He’s trying to get training by the Department of Justice on unconscious bias.
What is the range of disciplinary action he takes?
Levels of discipline range from re-instruction, verbal counseling (they go over policy), a written reprimand that goes in their file, suspension, or termination (Wingert has terminated 6 people).
Is there an appeal process if you don’t agree with the outcome of a complaint?
Yes – you can appeal to the city manager and the Human Rights Commission. Then the City, Legal and the Chief discuss (so, still an internal process).
We discussed the specific changes we’d like to see with the complaint process. One attendee started by sharing her experience filing an official complaint with the Office of Professional Standards and how she felt like she was on trial and treated unprofessionally.
These were the changes we proposed:
All complaints are formal.
Official complaint form available online and follow up by the Office of Professional Standrads within 48 hours.
All complaints are given a case number.
Consistent timelines for investigation – 30 day response time.
Person filing complaint is allowed a citizen advocate or person of their choosing to be with them throughout whole process, including interview process.
Transparency of the investigation – progress is shared to the citizen.
Each citizen is given notice of how you can appeal and given information about the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
Statistics of complaints – how many filed, demographics of who’s filing and outcomes of the complaint.
Wingert said because of Rosa Ruiz and her experience with the complaint process they started giving everyone who files a complaint a card with the investigator’s number and their case number on it.
Officers are required to carry business cards. Currently, they don’t have their names on it. They have to fill that in. It could change to where they’ll get individual business cards. They are required to give it to you if you ask.
Body cameras – Wingert says it’s coming but the main issue is public privacy and who has access to it. He’s working with the ACLU and Bruce Hunter on legislation that takes into account the privacy concerns.
Police car cameras – they run when the lights are on but there is a failsafe system so it’s almost always recording.
Racial profilingpolicy – DMPD does have one and Wingert had a hand in drafting it.
We closed the meeting asking what he thought about a citizen review board and asked him to note that we think it’s important to have one in Des Moines. We will keep working on making that happen. We also asked him to examine the proposed complaint process changes.
We will keep you posted!
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Alicia Garza came to Des Moines to talk about the movement to end anti-black racism and to achieve racial justice: #blacklivesmatter. She captured the room’s attention with profoundly engaging and necessary words.
“Race in this country was constructed on black bodies. We have to understand the roots of anti-blackness in all of our communities. It’s even in our language. When we say black-list what do we mean? It is in our country’s DNA.
The work that we do together has to be courageous enough to dismantle that. It’s about changing laws, structures, and the ways in which we relate to each other.
Every social movement in this country was built by regular, everyday people. All of our humanity is at stake if we are not successful, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Members of the community that have an issue regarding an interaction with the police, such as racial profiling, are encouraged to file acomplaint with the Office of Professional Standards (OPS).
In October of 2014, when Rosa Ruiz was harassed and racially profiled by an off-duty Des Moines police officer, we decided to follow protocol and submitted a complaint with OPS. Watch what happened by clicking on the video above.
OPS has two types of complaints – formal and informal. There are no criteria to determine what constitutes as formal or informal; that is up to the discretion of the Captain and sergeants in charge of OPS. Rosa submitted a complaint with the goal of receiving an apology from the officers and also sought proper disciplinary action for the off-duty officer. Unfortunately, Rosa’s complaint was not taken seriously and was quickly dismissed by OPS and the DMPD.
In light of the failure of OPS’s complaint process to provide justice for Rosa, she decided to take another route.With the help of Iowa CCI, Rosa submitted a formal complaint to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC). The ICRC is one of the only agencies that has the power to investigate police practices and they do so from an unbiased perspective. However, this process can be very lengthy – anywhere from 6 months to a year.
To begin the process, a person must submit the brief complaint form to the ICRC. Once the form is received it is filed into their system and assigned a case number which takes about two weeks. Once it has been filed, the ICRC mails a three-part questionnaire to each party. In Rosa’s case one was mailed to Rosa and another was mailed to the DMPD. The questionnaire seeks a detailed account of each party’s experience and recommends returning the questionnaire with any evidence, such as witness testimonies or footage, to the ICRC. Once the ICRC receives both party’s questionnaires it is filed back into the system where it waits to be assigned to an investigator for screening. This wait period can take anywhere from 30 days to 120 days. At the end of this initial screening the ICRC investigator makes a claim in favor of one party or the other and sends copies of both party’s questionnaires and findings to both parties.
At this point, the party who submitted the complaint has two options – mediation or continued investigation. Mediation involves a representative of both parties meeting with an ICRC investigator separately to find a common ground; continued investigation involves a team of ICRC investigators to meet with both parties, witnesses, and have access to all evidence, such as footage or recordings. A continued investigation has the potential to lead to a lawsuit. If a party wishes to pursue continued investigation their case goes back into the system and waits for assignment which can take up to 30 days. Once it has been assigned there is no timeline for how long it could take to resolve the complaint.
Rosa’s racial profiling complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) was submitted on October 16th, 2014. Rosa completed the detailed questionnaire and submitted it on November 12, 2014; it was filed for the ICRC screening process on November 18, 2014. Rosa’s complaint made it through the screening process on February 26, 2015. Rosa received a letter on March 4, 2015 disclosing information about an option for a mediation session. During the four-month period between her submission of the ICRC complaint and the end of the screening process, Rosa attempted to meet with the DMPD numerous times to resolve the on-going issue. For various reasons, the DMPD and City Attorney’s Office continued to decline her invitation to meet.
On March 26, 2015 Iowa CCI received a letter from the City Attorney’s Office explaining that any future communication should not be with the DMPD but with Carol Moser, a City Attorney. Rosa declined the mediation option. Her goal was to speak to off-duty officer and get an apology from him.She did not see mediation with the City Attorney’s office as productive because there would be no acknowledgement of the horrific behavior of this officer. She declined mediation via a phone call to the ICRC on March 27, 2015. Her ICRC, the agency with power to investigate police practices, complaint was filed back into the system shortly after. Her case did get assigned to an investigative specialist for continued review.
We will keep you posted as this case develops. If you have been racially profiled, or want to learn more, call the office at 515.282.0484.
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