Black man canvassing for David Young stopped by West Des Moines police officer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   November 12, 2018
Bridget Fagan-Reidburn, Community Organizer, bridget[@]iowacci.org, 515.255.0800

Des Moines, IA– Today, members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a grassroots social justice organization, released cell phone video footage of a Monday, October 29, 2018 interaction between West Des Moines Officer Clint Ray and political canvasser, Keilon Hill. Iowa CCI members say this is more evidence of racial profiling among police officers in the Des Moines metro area.

Links to Keilon Hill’s videos:

On Monday, October 29, 2018 at approximately 3:00 p.m., Keilon Hill was door canvassing for Rep. David Young. Mr. Hill, a resident of southern Louisiana, was employed by a super PAC working on behalf of Young. After Mr. Hill interviewed a resident, he sat down on a rock next to the sidewalk to write his notes, with his campaign pamphlets beside him.

Officer Clint Ray with the West Des Moines Police Department pulled up as Mr. Hill was writing his notes. Officer Ray approached Mr. Hill and asked what he was doing around here. Officer Ray then began to tell Mr. Hill that he was soliciting. Mr. Hill explained to Officer Ray that he was not soliciting anything because he was not offering any services or selling any goods. At that point, Mr. Hill declined the interview and told Officer Ray he was going on his way. Mr. Hill was in possession of campaign materials and was clearly out canvassing.

Officer Ray followed Mr. Hill as he walked away and demanded he identify himself. Officer Ray repeated that Mr. Hill was a suspicious person. Mr. Hill asked repeatedly what crime he had committed, and Officer Ray could not provide a response. Mr. Hill declined to speak with Officer Ray further because he knew Iowa law does not require a person to identify themselves unless there is reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot, and Mr. Hill was not up to anything illegal.

Because Mr. Hill declined to speak with him, Officer Ray arrested Mr. Hill for violating Iowa Code § 718.4. That statute makes it illegal to willfully prevent an officer from performing the officer’s duty. But the United States Supreme Court has held a person “may not be detained even momentarily without reasonable, objective grounds for doing so; and his refusal to listen or answer does not, without more, furnish those grounds.” Fla. v. Royer, 103 S. Ct. 1319, 1324 (1983). In other words, it is not illegal to refuse to interact with law enforcement when there is no reason for law enforcement to think that you’re doing something wrong.

This is not the first incident we have heard of African Americans canvassing for candidates where the police have been called by neighbors or the canvasser was followed by the police for simply being in a predominantly white neighborhood. Mr. Hill said the following day, he was canvassing in Urbandale and an Urbandale police officer followed him. A woman invited him into her home so the police would leave him alone.

Mr. Hill provided this statement:

“Before I came to Des Moines, I saw reports of racial profiling by the Des Moines Police Department. I watched a video circulated through social media of two African American males being profiled in a car made me apprehensive about coming to Des Moines, but work brought me here.

I do not live in this community, but I felt compelled to share my experience. There will be another 24-year-old Black man that will be stopped tomorrow, who may not know his rights. It is important to address these issues within every community in Des Moines that has suffered at the hands of an agency charged with protecting the citizens that inhabit them.

Within 5 days of my stay in Des Moines, I had two police encounters, with one ending in an arrest. These encounters happened while I was out working in affluential, Caucasian neighborhoods.  I had work materials with me. I stood up for myself because I had the right to. The laws of every state and how to handle police interactions have been embedded in my mind because you have to be ready for these things at any moment as an African American person. I hope that my story prevents another minority from going through a similar situation.”

Racial profiling has lasting effects, from economic and employment loss to being trapped in the court system. Mr. Hill, is currently applying to law school and this arrest could impact his entire future and potential career.

Mr. Hill has retained Gina Messamer, an attorney with the Parrish Law Firm to represent him in his criminal case.

This incident comes on the heels of Iowa CCI releasing dash and body cam footage of a racial profiling stop by Officers Kyle Thies and Natalie Heinemann. Iowa CCI members and the community continue to await the results of the Des Moines Police Department’s internal investigation.

Take Action
On November 19, community members will urge the Des Moines City Council to start the drafting process for a city-wide anti-racial profiling ordinance. The community is invited.  For more information, contact Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement at 255-0800.

For interview inquiries, contact Bridget Fagan-Reidburn at bridget [@] iowacci.org

 

Tweet and share this news story.