Iowa lawmakers unanimously OK bill limiting police actions

The bill surfaced Thursday and was debated simultaneously in the House and Senate before passing both chambers unanimously.
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Legislature swiftly passed a bill Thursday that responds to the demands of protesters marching against racial injustice with provisions that restrict the use of choke holds and make it more difficult for problem officers to move to other departments.

The bill surfaced Thursday and was debated simultaneously in the House and Senate before passing both chambers unanimously.

Gov. Kim Reynolds watched the debate and vote in the House and then watched the Senate finish debate and vote.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, and I mean all of you, not only are you part of history, you are rectifying history. And that is something you can tell your babies and your grandchildren. Tell this story from now on what we did in Iowa,” said Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, a black lawmaker who endured tear gas as he worked to calm recent protests in Des Moines.

The bill prohibits police from using a choke hold unless a person cannot be captured any other way and either the person has threatened or used deadly force while committing a felony. There also is a provision for an officer who reasonably believes the person would use deadly force unless immediately apprehended.

The bill also authorizes the attorney general to prosecute a law enforcement officer if the officer’s action results in a death, even if the county attorney does not. If the attorney general determines criminal charges are not appropriate, the matter can be referred to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Council to recommend revocation or suspension of an officer’s certification.

“This legislation can lead to real reform by addressing choke holds and officer misconduct,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. “It is a step forward. I am gratified to see our legislators come together. At a time like this, bipartisanship is crucial.”

The bill authorizes the state Law Enforcement Academy Council to revoke the certification of an officer convicted of a felony or who was discharged for serious misconduct as an officer. It also applies to those who left, voluntarily quit or were laid off while an investigation was imminent or pending that could have resulted in the applicant being discharged for serious misconduct.

It requires every Iowa law enforcement officer to participate in annual training on the history and role of the civil rights movement and its impact on law enforcement. Training must also include understanding and respect for diverse communities and non-combative methods of law enforcement in a diverse community.

“The government has a role to play in solving this problem but the government cannot solve every problem of racism or discrimination,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver. “That change can only happen in the hearts and minds of Americans through the conversations now happening in workplaces, neighborhoods, and homes around the country.”

Reynolds credited the bipartisan support for the bill.

“We are just getting started, but our work together shows Iowa is willing to have the tough conversations and to look past our differences to find common ground and a brighter future for all Iowans,” she said.

Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, a Des Moines Democrat who is black, said she never dreamed such a bill would pass.

“I never would have dreamed I could stand on floor of Iowa legislature and support a bill that would help all of this indignity to black Americans stop but here I am and here it is. Sometimes the Lord chooses us for special things,” she said.

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