Data: Blacks more likely to face force by Iowa state police
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Black residents in Iowa are far more likely than whites to face the use of force from officers working for state police agencies, newly released internal statistics show.
Blacks make up about 4% of Iowa’s 3.2 million residents. But they accounted for 24% of those who had force used against them by officers with the Iowa Department of Public Safety, which includes the Iowa State Patrol and Division of Criminal Investigation, in 2018 and 2019.
Blacks accounted for a similar percentage of those who were visibly injured or complained of being injured during those interactions, statistics show.
The Associated Press obtained the department’s annual use of force reports for 2018 and 2019 through the Iowa open records law. Across the state and nation, Black Lives Matter protesters have been calling for an end to racial injustice and police brutality and demanding more oversight of officers.
In response to pressure, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law this month giving the attorney general more authority to investigate deaths caused by police and requiring officers to undergo routine de-escalation and racial bias training.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety’s sworn officers have long been overwhelmingly white and disproportionate when compared with the state’s population.
An outside assessment report released in 2015 showed that 98% of 615 officers were caucasians but found no concerns about biased policing, saying few had complained of racial profiling.
Department officials didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.
The department requires officers to file detailed reports when they use force. In 2018, the reports began tracking the gender, race and ethnicity of subjects.
In the first two years of tracking, whites were 72% of the 385 people subjected to force and a smaller share, 68%, of the 91 who were visibly injured or complained of injuries, the reports show. Whites make up about 90% of the state population.
The 2019 annual report, which was approved in February, offered additional details on the disparities. It shows that 3 in 10 times a state police officer pointed a handgun, rifle or shotgun at someone in 2019, the subject in question was Black.
Blacks accounted for 1 in 4 subjects who had a Taser device pointed at them, and 7 in 20 who faced a discharge from one of those weapons. Three in 10 people subjected to a “weaponless control technique” from a state officer — which includes taking someone to the ground, striking them or pushing them — were Black.
The reports offer no explanation for the disparities or express any concern about them. Instead, the 2019 report said that injuries were low for subjects of all races and praised officers for “sound judgment,” noting they didn’t discharge a firearm once that year.
The report found “a significant increase in subject resistance,” saying more people were fleeing from officers in vehicles and on foot. That trend resulted in guns being drawn by officers more often, it said.
Officers violated policy in less than 1% of incidents and “frequently use a minimal and appropriate level of force,” the report concluded.
The report said the department’s training priorities for this year would include more effective deployment of Tasers and routine firearms and defensive tactics drills.