Amid ‘Black Lives Matter’ chants, Reynolds signs police bill
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Backed by Black Lives Matter supporters and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed into law a package of police reforms hours after lawmakers unanimously approved the legislation.
Reynolds praised lawmakers who quickly approved the bill Thursday night after debating it simultaneously in the House and Senate and thanked protesters who took to the streets to make clear the need for the legislation after the May 25 death of George Floyd.
Reynolds said the death of Floyd, who was black and handcuffed when a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin down his neck for minutes even after he stopped moving, “opened the eyes of a nation and sparked a movement,” but she acknowledged African Americans have long been complaining of such treatment.
“It also reinforced the message of our African American brothers and sisters that have been telling us for years that injustice exists and is unacceptable in a free and great nation such as this,” Reynolds said.
As she signed the bill, in front of the state Capitol, activists who stood on steps near her chanted, “Black Lives Matter.”
Among other things, the new law prohibits police from using a chokehold unless someone can’t be captured another way and has either threatened or used deadly force while committing a felony. Officers also could use the hold if they believe the person would otherwise use deadly force.
It also authorizes the attorney general to prosecute officers if their actions result in a death, even if a county attorney declines to prosecute. If an investigation finds criminal charges aren’t appropriate, cases can be referred to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Council for possible revocation or suspension of an officer’s certification.
The law also allows the Law Enforcement Academy Council to revoke the certification of an officer who is convicted of a felony or who was discharged for serious misconduct as an officer.
It also requires all law enforcement officers to participate in annual training about the civil rights movement and its impact on law enforcement. The training includes understanding diverse communities and non-combative methods of law enforcement.
While calling the bill a landmark, bipartisan achievement, Reynolds said the issues raised by protesters wouldn’t be resolved by one bill.
“This is not the end of our work,” she said. “It is just a beginning.”