Rosa Ruiz: case update on police harassment, racial profiling

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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