Apr 28, 2022 - News

Independent review recommends Des Moines police document all stops

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A newly released independent report funded by the city recommends that Des Moines' Police Department collect and report data about all traffic and pedestrian stops.

Why it matters: Residents and civil rights groups have accused the department of racial profiling for years. Groups like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement say collecting data on all stops, including individuals' race and ethnicity, could help hold police accountable.

State of play: Des Moines police currently only collect data in stops that result in an arrest or a citation.

  • The City Council agreed in 2020 to research how to better assess and collect city law enforcement data as part of a larger goal to improve fairness and prevent discrimination.

The latest: Public Works LLC, a Pennsylvania-based company contracted to assist with the review, presented its recommendations to the city Wednesday. Among them:

  • A Data Analysis Unit (DAU) should be created within the DMPD.
  • Stop data should be analyzed annually and released publicly.

What else: The report recommends that the city develop a 3- to 5-year strategic plan, with a focus on "data accountability, analytics and transparency."

  • Projected costs to implement the plans were not included in the report.

Of note: Des Moines has paid more than $1.7 million in settlements and jury verdicts in cases involving allegations of police wrongdoing since 2016, and multiple lawsuits are pending against the department.

What they're saying: City manager Scott Sanders told the City Council Wednesday that the data would be used to shape future policies in policing.

  • Proper data collection would provide the city with multiple benefits, including a better deployment of police and better use of city resources, Eric Schnurer, Public Works' president, told council members.

What's next: Police and city staff will review the full report and return to the council in coming months to discuss implementation, Sanders said.

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