Police and Law Enforcement

Nick Glenn / Flickr

bill making its way through the Iowa legislature directs local governments and police departments to comply with federal immigration authorities or risk losing state funding.

On this edition of River to River, legislative day co-hosts Ben Kieffer and Joyce Russell talk with lawmakers, law enforcement, an immigration advocate, and the mayor of Iowa City about their views on the proposal and how it may impact Iowa communities.

Derek Jensen

Traffic cameras are getting a red light from Iowa lawmakers as Republicans debate a total ban on automated traffic enforcement devices. During this hour of River to River Ben Kieffer is joined by Senator Brad Zahn, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, and Sergeant Paul Parizek of the Des Moines Police Department.  We also hear background and an update on an Iowa Supreme Court challenge to traffic camera in eastern Iowa from Gazette reporter Brian Morelli.

Burlington Hawkeye

The Burlington Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation have lost the latest round in their struggle to keep private certain records from a fatal police shooting in Burlington. 

In January of 2015 Officer Jesse Hill accidentally shot and killed 34-year-old Autumn Steele at her home after answering a domestic abuse complaint. 

The Iowa Public Information board has hired Des Moines attorney Mark McCormick as a special prosecutor in the case, seeking the release of police body camera videos, emergency calls, and other evidence.

police car
Diego Parra / Pixabay

Four civil rights groups are asking the Iowa Supreme Court to ban pretextual traffic stops on the grounds they are unconstitutional and perpetuate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. 

A pretextual traffic stop is when a police officer stops a driver for a minor issue like a broken taillight with the intent to investigate a suspected criminal offense. 

"African-Americans and other Iowans of color are more likely to be stopped, and that’s what we’re trying to prevent," says Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP. 

The Iowa Law Enforcement Academy trained a record number of law enforcement personnel this year.

Director Judy Bradshaw says that’s because more Iowa law officers are leaving the profession after a relatively short time on duty. So law enforcement agencies are sending more and more new recruits to the academy for training.

Bradshaw was a career police officer with the Des Moines Police Department for 34 years.

Burlington Hawkeye

An administrative law judge in Des Moines today heard arguments in an ongoing public records conflict pitting the Iowa Public Information Board against the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation and the Burlington Police Department.  

The Board is pursuing a contested case against the law enforcement agencies, seeking police video and other evidence in the fatal police shooting of Autumn Steele at her home in Burlington in January of 2015.    

The mother of two was shot and killed by Officer Jesse Hill who answered a domestic dispute call at the home.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa Public Information Board, which oversees openness in Iowa government, is itself embroiled in a struggle over a secret meeting it held this summer.      

The nine-member board voted Thursday not to release a recording of the meeting, which disappointed some advocates for transparency in government.  

The controversy stems from a controversial open records case the board is handling. 

Interested parties want the Burlington Police Department to release body camera video from a 2015 fatal police shooting. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds today defended the executive branch agency that’s charged with overseeing compliance with Iowa’s open meetings and public records laws.  

The Iowa Public Information Board is itself the subject of a complaint alleging a violation of the law.    

IPIB is in a legal struggle to force the Burlington Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to release video from a fatal 2015 police shooting.   

As allowed by law, the board met in closed session last week to discuss the case.

cedar rapids police patch
City of Cedar Rapids

A Cedar Rapids city employee was hospitalized after he brought a shotgun to the City Services Center  Wednesday morning. City officials say the man intended to harm himself.

The City Services Center, which houses several city departments and nearly 375 employees, was evacuated Wednesday morning.

Cedar Rapids Deputy Police Chief Tom Jonker says police entered the building and confirmed the man had caused no injuries.

police car
Diego Parra / Pixabay

The Marion Police Department is teaming up with University of Iowa researchers to improve policing strategies, pending approval by the Marion City Council.

Criminologists from the UI Public Policy Center will be embedded with the police department to promote "Intelligence Led Policing." 

Marion Police Chief Joe McHale says the partnership will help the department analyze information including locations and types of criminal activity.

Flickr / Phil Roeder

The ability of a police officer to spot someone carrying a concealed weapon or bomb is only slightly better than chance, according to a new study from Iowa State University.

Lead author Dawn Sweet directs ISU’s Body Language and Facial Expressions Lab. She says the study's findings don't show that police officers are bad at their jobs, rather it's that they lack the right training or tools to spot people who are concealing potential threats.

matt denlinger
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Cedar Rapids police are using new DNA technology to try to solve the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko.

The department sent 37-year-old DNA evidence to a company that uses DNA to predict the ancestry and appearance of the suspect.

At a Tuesday news conference, police presented three images resulting from the DNA analysis. They show a white male of northern and western European descent with blond hair, blue-green eyes and fair skin. The technology cannot predict age and weight, so different versions show what the suspect might look like at age 25 and age 50. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds says it’s too early to recommend any change in state policy, after last week’s fatal shooting of Pottawattamie County deputy Mark Burbridge, whose funeral was held in Council Bluffs today.

Deputy Burbridge was killed in the line of duty when an inmate he was escorting back to jail with another deputy took one their firearms and shot them both.    

Reynolds says the Branstad administration will stay in touch with the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Department officials as they review the incident.

jones and mitchell dash cam
YouTube

The City of Cedar Rapids and a police officer are denying all allegations in a lawsuit over a police shooting that left a man paralyzed from the neck down. 

In responses filed last week, the City of Cedar Rapids and police officer Lucas Jones state they are not liable for injuries or damages to Jerime Mitchell and his wife.

Mitchell sued the city and Jones after Jones shot him during a traffic stop last November.

jones and mitchell dash cam
YouTube

A man who was shot by a Cedar Rapids police officer last fall is suing the city. Jerime Mitchell has been paralyzed from the neck down since the shooting, which happened during a traffic stop in November.

Mitchell and his wife are suing the city and Officer Lucas J0nes for negligence, “reckless, willful and wanton” actions, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium.

The details of the shooting presented in the lawsuit are very different from those made public by county and state authorities late last year.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The head of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy briefed state lawmakers this week on changes in the curriculum for officers in training at the school.   

Director Judy Bradshaw says they’re trying to bring students up to speed on a growing form of credit card fraud.

Thieves are installing more and more illegal card-readers known as skimmers on gas pumps and ATM’s.   

The devices copy the information from your credit card, which can then be turned into a clone of your card.

Skimmers can be purchased on the internet for less than $20.   

John Pemble/IPR file photo

The two Des Moines-area police officers shot and killed in ambush attacks in November were among 21 killed in such attacks on law enforcement officers last year.  Des Moines Sgt. Anthony Beminio and Urbandale Officer Justin Martin were shot and killed in separate incidents less than two miles apart while in their patrol cars early on November 2.

The entire uniformed division of the Des Moines Police Department will be equipped with body cameras next year. The more than 300 cameras are being purchased with the help of a grant from the Department of Justice, as well as community donations.

The DMPD says the cameras will aid with evidence gathering and help the community gain a better understanding of police work.

"The public will get a really raw inside look inside look at some of the things that we do and how we do things, and why we do things. Some of the things we have to put up with," says Sgt. Paul Parizek. 

FLICKR / JASON MRACHINA

The number of homicides in the City of Des Moines hit a two-decade high last year. But one year later, it appears 2015 is an anomaly and not the start of a trend.

Last year Des Moines saw 21 homicides and this year has had 13 so far, which Sgt. Paul Parizek of the Des Moines Police Department says it about average for a city the size of Des Moines. 

"When we look at numbers," says Parizek about 2015, "it seems to be just a weird situation."

ILEA

The director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy this week briefed Governor Branstad on morale at the school after the recent shootings of Des Moines area police officers Justin Martin and Anthony Beminio. 

The comments came as director Judy Bradshaw presented her agency’s budget request to the governor and his advisors.

Bradshaw says she gathered students together for a briefing shortly after the assault on the officers. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A new program to get severely ill psychiatric patients into a hospital in a timely manner is working, according to a new report by the Iowa Department of Human Services.  

Officials say the 29 hospitals in Iowa that serve psychiatric patients are now reporting available beds into a statewide database, so law enforcement officers and others can know where there’s an opening in an emergency situation. 

“We now have 100% involvement of all the hospitals,” said DHS director Charles Palmer.  

The DHS director briefed Governor Branstad’s budget panel on the program.

Sarah Boden/IPR

A panel of local, state and federal law enforcement officials met in Urbandale Wednesday morning at the Westside Conservative Club meeting to discuss changes and challenges faced by law enforcement. One topic that weighed heavily in the conversation was recent fatal attacks against law enforcement both here in Iowa and nationwide. 

Chief Mike Venema of the Clive Police Department says his officers know police work comes with risk. But this year's unprovoked attacks have changed how he feels about his job.

Ben Kieffer

The shooting in Ferguson, Missouri and the unrest that followed sparked a vigorous debate in the country about the role of law enforcement.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury visit the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) at Camp Dodge in Johnston to find out how training is changing due to the national debate over the role of law enforcement.

James Carr/Flickr

The parents of an Iowa man who drowned while in custody of the Missouri Highway Patrol will receive a $9 million settlement.

On May 31, 2014, 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson was on a weekend trip to the Lake of Ozarks in Missouri, when he was taken into custody under suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

Officer Anthony Piercy hand cuffed Ellingson and took him aboard his patrol boat. At some point Ellingson fell overboard and drowned.

Sarah Boden/IPR

Supporters of a Cedar Rapids man who was shot by a police officer and is now paralyzed, spoke at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. The group then peacefully protested outside of Coe College, not far from where 37-year-old Jerime “Danky” Mitchell was shot on November 1.

Activists want institutional changes implemented to improve how Cedar Rapids police officers interact with the community, especially black residents. They’re also demanding the release of the dash camera video of the shooting of Danky Mitchell. 

Protesters say they’re planning to gather Tuesday afternoon at the 4:00 pm city council meeting in Cedar Rapids. They’re demanding information related to this month's shooting of Jerime "Danky" Mitchell , who is now paralyzed from the neck down after being shot by Cedar Rapids Police Officer Lucas Jones.

The confrontation started as an early traffic stop. It’s not known how or why the situation escalated to Jones firing his weapon.

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

An Urbandale man has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two central Iowa police officers. Scott Michael Greene is accused of killing Des Moines Sgt. Anthony "Tony" Beminio and Officer Justin Martin of the Urbandale Police Department, in separate ambush-style attacks early Wednesday morning. 

Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert calls Greene "a monster" and says there’s no way to make reason of the officers' deaths.

"This was calculated murder," says Wingert. "It was cowardly from the way it was carried out to the way it was ended." 

Flickr / Andrew Higgins

A new law signed Wednesday allows Iowa to finance a statewide communication system of high tech radios for first responders.

Commissioner Roxann Ryan of the Iowa Department of Public Safety says Iowa is currently one of only a handful of states without an interoperable communication system. First responders elsewhere in the country have found the high tech radios especially helpful during natural disasters, when cell phones towers are damaged or networks are overloaded.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill advanced in the Iowa House today to determine how many untested rape kits may be languishing in storage in Iowa police departments. 

Nationwide, authorities are discovering thousands of untested kits, which include bodily fluids and other evidence collected after a victim reports an assault. 

With the help of a federal grant, the attorney general’s crime victim division will survey all law enforcement agencies, and then make strategic choices on how many kits should be tested now.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Police, prosecutors, and medical professionals  gathered in Iowa City yesterday to address the growing problem of heroin addiction in Iowa.       

They heard how overuse of prescription painkillers leads addicts to opt for heroin which is cheaper and easier to get.  

Heroin now rivals the methamphetamine epidemic.

Dr. Anthony Miller with Veterans Hospital in Iowa City says the heroin problem has its roots in the 1990’s when views on managing pain shifted in American medicine.   

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