Nov 21, 2023 - News

Study: DSM needs to prioritize police stops and searches data

Illustration of many magnifying glasses examining a police badge

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Des Moines should prioritize efforts to improve data collection on police stops and searches, according to a third-party consultant's report released Monday.

Why it matters: Without better information, the community lacks sufficient ability to understand or scrutinize a core component of police officer activity, according to the report.

Catch up fast: The City Council hired Chicago-based 21CP Solutions last year as part of a goal to improve police accountability.

Zoom in: It's the second independent report recommending the city improve traffic and pedestrian stop data collection.

  • The first came in April 2022, when Pennsylvania-based Public Works LLC noted that police only collect some data, such as race in stops that result in arrest or a citation.

State of play: DMPD began collecting race data for all stops in October 2022.

Yes, but: Information about race is based on an officer's observation and may not be correct, spokesperson Sgt. Paul Parizek tells Axios.

  • State legislative efforts to require race and ethnicity be included in driver's license applications would improve the data's accuracy if passed, Parizek says.

What we're watching: The city is hiring three IT employees who will focus much of their time on police data, city manager Scott Sanders said during the meeting.

  • An online police dashboard will launch within the next year to provide the public with real-time data from the department, Sanders said.
  • Calls for service, arrest data and use of force are among the types of information that could be included.

Of note: Monday's report includes 45 other recommendations, including ways for the department to be more transparent with the data it collects through regular reports that include trends analyses and specific actions taken to address problems.

  • A diversity and equity coordinator is also needed to improve hiring and promotional practices because the DMPD "is generally racially homogenous and lacks in gender diversity," according to the report.

What's next: Police progress reports will be made to the council multiple times a year, Sanders said.


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