As men accuse Des Moines police of discrimination, groups push Iowa law banning racial profiling
Lawsuit accuses Des Moines police of racial profiling The Des Moines Register
When Laural Clinton first watched the video of two Des Moines police officers pulling over her son and his friend, she began to cry.
"My heart sank into my feet," she said of her reaction to the dash camera footage that has now been viewed more than 9 million times online. "I apologized to him because I brought him to this city."
Clinton recalled her response Monday during a news conference about a recent lawsuit stemming from the July 15 traffic stop. The suit alleges numerous civil rights violations, claiming the stop was unconstitutional.
Standing at a podium, Clinton and members of civil rights organizations in Iowa appealed to the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds to ban racial profiling.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said 30 states have laws prohibiting racial profiling, but Iowa doesn't.
Police body camera and cruiser cameras show a July 15 traffic stop, which a local activist group claims is evidence of racially biased policing.
The group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said they plan to push next year a bill introduced this year in the Iowa Senate that would prohibit racial profiling. They had asked Reynolds to create a racial profiling study committee, something a spokeswoman for the governor said is under consideration.
The African-American men seen in the video, Montray Little and Jared Clinton, said in the lawsuit submitted Friday they were racially profiled by two white Des Moines police officers when they pulled over their car for no apparent reason, handcuffing one of them while searching the vehicle without a warrant or probable cause.
Footage of the stop and search, captured on car and body camera video, was released to a public advocacy group earlier this month and posted online.
The video shows officer Kyle Thies ask Little, the driver, if the two men were carrying weapons. He claimed to smell marijuana in the car and to spot marijuana residue on the car floor.
It's unclear from the video what prompted the stop.
"Your buddy's giving me the idea that maybe he's got a gun," Thies can be heard saying. "That's what I think."
"How?" one of the men asked.
"I don't know," the officer responded. "Just the way, I mean, just the way you're holding yourself, man. That's why we're nervous, man. That's it."
The officer asked Little to get out of the car or be sent to jail. Little was then handcuffed.
As Thies searched the car, officer Natalie Heinemann questioned 21-year-old Clinton, the passenger. The search found nothing, and the two were allowed to drive away.
Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek has said the department is conducting an administrative review of the stop and others by Thies to see if allegations of racial profiling are founded.
"It's a serious allegation, and it's something we're looking into," Parizek has said. "You can't tell by looking at one video that it's racial profiling. There are a lot of different things going on there."
Police have received 34 complaints from the neighborhood about activity in Union Park on the city's north side, from which Little and Clinton were leaving when the officers stopped them, Parizek said. He said the officers "didn't just select that car because of the occupants."
The Associated Press' David Pitt and the Des Moines Register's Luke Nozicka contributed to this story.