Nov 4, 2022 - News

Des Moines settles police cell phone seizure case for $125K

Illustration of an iPhone's camera lenses shaped like police badges.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Des Moines agreed last week to pay $125,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging police illegally seized the cell phone of a man who recorded officers parking illegally.

Details: The agreement was obtained Thursday by Axios through a public records request.

Catch up fast: Daniel Robbins was briefly detained and his phone was confiscated by DSM police for 12 days in 2018 after he was seen documenting officers who he believed were illegally parking in front of the station.

  • He sued, alleging they violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.

What happened: A federal judge dismissed the case in 2019, saying Robbins had given reasonable suspicion of being engaged in a crime.

  • Yes, but: An appellate court in August concluded officers did not have sufficient reason to seize the phone and partially reversed that decision.

The intrigue: Robbins offered to settle the case on multiple occasions for as little as $25,000 if DSM implemented officer training and adopted a policy about recording police that is recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, his attorney Gary Dickey told Axios Thursday.

  • The city declined the offers but still adopted the policy prior to this year’s court rulings, Dickey said.

The other side: The department receives more than 200,000 calls for service a year and is "constantly updating" its policies, Chief Dana Wingert said in a statement Thursday that was in response to Axios' inquiry about the settlement.


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