Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Several civil rights groups want police officers banned from pulling over people for minor offenses because they said that the practice unfairly targets black people.
The groups, ACLU of Iowa, Iowa-Nebraska Conference of the NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa, and 1,000 Kids for Iowa, filed an amicus curiae brief with the Iowa Supreme Court on Thursday, Nov. 30, according to KGAN.
In the brief, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Cedar Rapids Police Department and the Waterloo Police Department, were highlighted, according to KCRG.
According to the brief, a 2014 study showed that “people of color” made up 10 percent of drivers, but 19 percent of traffic stops in Iowa City.
However, the author of that study, St. Ambrose University Criminal Justice Professor Chris Barnum, has released newer 2015 numbers which show a downward trend on disproportionate stops.
It’s not clear why the civil rights groups ignored the more recent, more accurate numbers.
Barnum also said that census data doesn’t actually show if there’s any bias in making traffic stops.
“Depending on where the stops are made really determines to a great extent whether there’s disproportionality,” Barnum said, according to Press-Citizen. He explained that if police have more patrols in high-crime areas, which have a denser population of people of color, then the numbers will appear more disproportionate.
The civil rights groups also mentioned the November, 2016 traffic stop of Jerime Mitchell in the brief.
Cedar Rapids Police Officer Lucas Jones stopped Mitchell for a burned out license plate light. Mitchell tried to drive away and trapped Officer Jones between an open driver’s side door and the truck.
Police said that Officer Lucas feared for his life when he shot Mitchell, who recovered but was paralyzed from the neck down, according to The Gazette. A grand jury investigated the incident at the request of Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, and found that the shooting was justified.
Vander Sanden said that evidence was received that indicated Mitchell was on the verge of making a marijuana deal, and that he was profane and belligerent from the start. He also said that Mitchell attacked the officer.
In the brief, the civil rights group recommended that the Iowa Supreme Court come up with a test to determine when racial profiling may be a factor.