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. 

All people — whether black, brown, immigrants, or lifelong Iowans — deserve dignity and respect. All people deserve to live without the fear of being stopped by the police solely because of the color of their skin.

But racial profiling happens far too often, and it has lasting and damaging consequences on our communities.

Watch this video of a July 15 traffic stop in Des Moines and add your name to the petition to end the DMPD’s practice of racial profiling.

It’s clear to us that the officer was determined to find a reason to arrest these young black men.

It’s easy to see how an unwarranted traffic stop like this could’ve easily escalated into violence or an unnecessary arrest.

We’re working to change that here in Des Moines, and create transparent avenues for individuals to hold our public servants accountable.

Sign the petition today to show your support for ending racial profiling in Des Moines!

A packed crowd of over 115 CCI members and others met with Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy and Des Moines Police Captain Todd Dykstra and Lt. Joe Gonzalez Nov. 2 to voice concerns about fair treatment and to ask Sheriff McCarthy to end participation in a federal program inaptly named “Secure Communities”.

Dozens shared their stories and the Sheriff and Police Departments felt our unity and heard our message loud and clear. In the meeting McCarthy stated that the county will not fingerprint for misdemeanors – a move that will reduce the number of unnecessary deportations – saying, “We believe our job is to investigate and solve crimes and we cannot do that if you are afraid to talk to us.”

“It’s good to know the law enforcement wants to hear from the Latino community. Everyone deserves to feel safe. It’s better for all the whole community,” said member Natalie Espinoza (photo) from Des Moines, who shared her story.

We got several commitments and clarifications from local law enforcement. Most notably:

  • Sheriff McCarthy announced that the Polk County Jail will not fingerprint those brought in for misdemeanors. This is a big win and a bold move that will reduce the number of unnecessary deportations under “Secure Communities”. If undocumented immigrants are not fingerprinted then their information is not sent to ICE. His announcement comes after months of CCI and like-minded groups working to denounce “Secure Communities” in the media, at the city  meetings, and to Sheriff McCarthy directly.
  • Police officers may not ask for anything more than a license, car registration, and proof of insurance. Meaning, they cannot ask about immigration status. Police Lt. Joe Gonzalez passed out official complaint forms so people can come forward and make a complaint if they feel they have been racial profiling or are bullied about immigration status.
  • Sheriff meetingSheriff McCarthy (photo) committed to send an officer to the Iowa CCI office if anyone wants to make a complaint about treatment at the Polk County Jail. And, Chief Sheriff Deputy Victor Munoz reaffirmed that you do not need to be documented to visit family in the jail, all they need to bring is some form of ID.
  • Des Moines Police told the audience that everyone has the right to an interpreter so they know why they were stopped and/or what they are being charged with. An officer cannot deny access to an interpreter and officers should be carrying cell phones with a translation service with them at all times.

We will be following up with the Sheriff on the specifics of his new fingerprinting policy. And, as always, we will be holding both departments accountable to their own rules. When they will not call an interpreter or if they ask about someone’s immigration status, CCI members will be there to make the complaints and hold them accountable.

Thanks for a great meeting! If you attended, we would love to hear your thoughts.