This statement can be attributed to ACLU of Iowa Policy and Advocacy Director Daniel Zeno and/or ACLU of Iowa Communications Director Veronica Fowler.

"The ordinance passed by the Council tonight is a positive first step toward providing policing in our community that is less biased. But it still has a long way to go in truly making sure that law enforcement in Des Moines treats all people equally. 

There are some areas of bold and meaningful change in the ordinance. There are also now some useful mechanisms in place that ensure ongoing work. And there are some areas that require significantly more work.

We urge the council to take more steps that are bold and meaningful. That’s what Des Moines residents want to see. Incremental change in small steps may be progress. But bold, meaningful change is what is needed at this time. It's what Black Des Moines residents have been demanding for years. It's what people in the streets have been demanding. It's what we’re continuing to demand today and that’s what we’ll keep demanding.


  • We're glad the ordinance has clear language that bans racial profiling and all biased policing. We have been advocating for that language for years and we are glad that the Des Moines City Council is finally acting on this.
  • We’re glad the ordinance mandates annual training on implicit bias and de-escalation training. 
  • However, we're disappointed that a true citizen's review board in Des Moines isn’t in the ordinance. Instead, we are getting a policy and review committee and one that doesn't have very much power at that. Five of the members would be people who are already in city-connected positions and just four would be community members. We think it should be the other way around. 
  • More work needs to be done on data collection. The resolution passed on March 9, 2020, says that the city will put out a call for proposals so that the city can begin to consider this and eventually begin data collection, including collecting race/ethnicity data for stops where officers don’t arrest anyone or don’t issue a citation to give a more complete picture of policing in Des Moines. We're disappointed there's not a more concrete proposal to begin data collection now.

Further, the policy committee would simply review data and policy and make recommendations to the city manager, who then could make recommendations to the city council. The ACLU would like to see an independent and strong board that has the power to hold police officers accountable for wrongdoing, including racist conduct and policing. These boards should:

  1. Be nominated by civic organizations and representative of the communities most impacted by policing
  2. Have broad scope to review complaints
  3. Have independent investigatory authority, including subpoena power
  4. Have disciplinary authority
  5. Be able to audit policies and practices
  6. Have ample funding
  7. Have the power to review and implement policy that is not subjected to a unilateral veto by police or municipal government officials
  8. Publish reports on their work and findings regularly for residents
  • While the ordinance includes the words “pretextual stops” it doesn’t change the law; it simply restates the law. Pretextual stops alienate the very communities the police are supposed to serve. They are unfair, they’ve driven system-wide racial disparities on the basis of race and they are inherently dishonest. And for Black people and other people of color, we’ve seen too many times that they are dangerous. For every police encounter that results in injury or death, there are thousands more that don’t, but those stops still lead to fear and distrust in police. This has to change.
  • We're also glad, in a separate resolution, that the council is establishing a task force to study making marijuana enforcement Des Moines Police’s lowest priority.  (By the way, the city cannot decriminalize marijuana, the way the title suggests. But the city can direct its officers to de-prioritize enforcement of certain laws, such as this one.)"