We met with DMPD Chief of Police Dana Wingert on racial profiling

IMG_1617 asdgOn 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:

 

  1. Do you believe racial profiling exists in Des Moines?
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  2. 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?
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  3. Do you have statistics on the number of stops, arrests and active complaints? Do you report these statistics to the Justice Department?
    1. Yes, they record stats and are required by law to report stats to the Justice Department.
    2. Every week, Wingerts gets a report of all officers regarding any excessive force used and complaints issued.
  4. Do you ask specific questions about racism during the polygraph test officers receive?
    1. 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.
  5. Other questions folks asked:
    1. What sort of trainings do officers receive?
      1. 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.
      2. He’s trying to get training by the Department of Justice on unconscious bias.
    2. What is the range of disciplinary action he takes?
      1. 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).
    3. Is there an appeal process if you don’t agree with the outcome of a complaint?
      1. 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.

 

Takeaways:

 

  • 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 profiling policy – 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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