In 2015, the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy lacked training on implicit bias. As a cadet there then, Natasha Greene sought discussions on her own about some of the mistaken beliefs officers might hold of others, such as expecting a black person to be dangerous or more crime prone from stereotypes, ideas that could come from television or passed from family and friends. Now an Iowa State Police Department officer, Greene said these conversations were uncomfortable, as awkward as telling someone the zipper on their pants is down but you still do it.
“If I’m talking to somebody I care about and their fly’s down, of course I’m going to tell them their fly’s down because it would be more harmful for me to just let them carry on without knowing,” Greene said. Today those discussions are more serious and more uncomfortable as the May 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police brought the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for defunding police. Implicit bias and training officers became part of the national conversation.
Drunk drivers, motorcyclists and young or distracted motorists make up the majority of those involved in fatal vehicle crashes, and many states are failing to pass key safety measures that could prevent such deaths, according to a new report by a highway safety group. The nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety each year releases a report card grading states on their legislative efforts to reduce traffic deaths. The group’s 2020 report credits seven states—Rhode Island, Washington, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, California and Louisiana, along with the District of Columba—with having the best laws to reduce crash deaths. Twelve states—South Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, Ohio, Florida, Nebraska, Nevada, Vermont, New Hampshire and Virginia—ranked worst in the report card. In 2018, the most recent year for which federal data is available, 36,560 people died in traffic collisions in the U.S. The figure marks a 2.4 percent decrease from 2017, but is still high compared to earlier in the decade.
Iowa’s efforts to privatize a state agency tasked with protecting the elderly and disabled have stalled in the face of escalating complaints that the office is routinely violating federal and state law. Many of the complaints are coming from within the agency itself. Rep. Mary Gaskill, a Democrat from Ottumwa, says the Iowa Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s Office seems to be in disarray and is struggling with staff defections, internal complaints and an uncertain future. “I’m not happy with that,” she said. “It’s not a good situation over there.”
Newly released data from the National Ombudsman Reporting System shows that of the nation’s 50 state long-term care ombudsmen, Iowa ranks last in on-site visits made to care facilities.
Iowa health officials are withholding $44 million from an insurance company that provides health coverage to Iowans under the state’s privatized Medicaid program, pointing to unresolved issues with payments to health providers. Iowa Department of Human Services staff told Iowa Total Care representatives Friday that the state will withhold about a third of the amount it would have otherwise paid the company this month. Michael Randol, Iowa’s Medicaid director, said in a letter released Friday that Iowa Total Care had not paid more than 100,000 claims that providers had submitted.
“Ample opportunity was given (to Iowa Total Care) to remedy the issues,” Randol’s letter said. The state’s action Friday was the first time Iowa’s DHS has withheld payment to a Medicaid insurance provider. Medicaid is the $5 billion federal-state program that provides health coverage to poor and disabled Iowans. Nearly 650,000 Iowans, including children, are enrolled in Medicaid.
In June, William Beeman, who is serving a life sentence in the Iowa Department of Corrections for a 1980 murder, asked a judge to order a DNA evidence test that he contends could prove his innocence. But police agencies involved in the case say they still can’t find the evidence to test. The missing items include a rape kit recovered from the body of the victim, 22-year-old Michiel Winkel, and bloody clothes from the state park where authorities found her dead. Beeman was a local DJ in rural Muscatine County, on the state’s eastern border, when police arrested him for murdering Winkel, who had been an acquaintance. Beeman’s attorneys argue that DNA evidence could shed more light on a crime with multiple suspects, no eyewitnesses, and a confession Beeman claims was coerced by police.
Fewer than half of the vehicles from the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s two largest law enforcement divisions were equipped to give officers the option of locking up weapons in those vehicles with designated equipment such as locking rifle racks or handgun vaults as recently as May 2019, an IowaWatch investigation revealed. Vehicles purchased since 2017 have locking devices to secure firearms beyond locking a vehicle’s door or trunk. The Department of Public Safety declined for safety reasons to provide updated numbers of vehicles with the capability. “Information regarding security and storage of weapons is a significant officer safety concern,” Catherine Lucas, general counsel of the Iowa Department of Public Safety wrote to IowaWatch in a response to a public records request in late September. Adam DeCamp, Division of Criminal Investigation special agent in charge, said a vehicle is secure when its doors are locked.
Internal firearm policy directives for the Department of Public Safety obtained by IowaWatch did not show any policy for the safe storage of handguns in an unattended vehicle.
Iowa Department of Public Safety vehicles sustained a five-year high of $849,878 worth of damage in 220 incidents in 2018, department officials said. Although only six more incidents were reported in 2018 than in 2017, the total damage reported in 2017 was worth $519,429 — $330,449 less than in 2018. The total damage for the two years combined cost $1.37 million. Lt. Rick Pierce, commander of Iowa State Patrol Fleet and Supply, said the cost of repairs may sound like a lot, but the Department of Public Safety has approximately 650 vehicles.
The most common cause of damage was “act of nature damage,” including at least 59 accidents involving deer reported in both 2017 and 2018, funding requests sent to the Executive Council of Iowa reveal. Hail was the second most common with 36 accidents reported to the council in the same time span, records examined by IowaWatch showed.
Former Vice President Joe Biden drew more people but Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a presumptive long-shot in a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, still was able to rouse Democrats and generally curious Iowans who heard both men speak at the Iowa State Fair Thursday. Such is the landscape in Iowa, the state with the nation’s first precinct caucuses that start gauging real delegate support for selecting a party’s 2020 presidential nominee: first-time national candidates, in this case seeing an opportunity to defeat a controversial Republican president in Donald Trump, vie with national figures more familiar to voters to gain support for higher office. Iowa gets them all before the winnowing process begins. Bullock told fairgoers the election must be about more than defeating Trump. “Look, I’m a pro-choice, pro-union, populist Democrat that won three eletions in a red state, not by compromising our values but by getting stuff done,” he said.
ByKaren Liu and Pam Dempsey/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
A 2018 recreational brand vehicle, $500,000 in cash, a quarter and a red Bass Pro Shop baseball cap. These are just a few of the thousands of items that Illinois police agencies have seized over the past decade under state and federal laws known as civil asset forfeiture. The laws allow the seizure of property without a criminal charge being filed or case being filed in court. This Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting story is part of a collaborative reporting initiative supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. See all the stories at taken.pulitzercenter.org.And they allow the police to keep and use the cash and property to finance for various expenses of the agencies, often without much oversight or disclosure on how the money is spent.
ByKaren Liu and Pam Dempsey/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Increasing lawsuits and allegations of civil right violations prompted the Illinois legislature to pass reforms of civil asset forfeitures that went into effect last year. Both federal and state civil asset forfeiture laws allow the seizure of property without a criminal charge being filed or case being filed in court. This Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting story is part of a collaborative reporting initiative supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. See all the stories at taken.pulitzercenter.org.Illinois reforms limited seizures by requiring police to have a slightly higher burden of proof to seize the property. For example, drug residue found in a person’s pocket is no longer grounds for Illinois police to take a car, said Ben Ruddell, criminal justice policy attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois in Chicago.
ByChristie J. Renick/Fostering Media Connections |
War Eagle, a Yankton Sioux chief in the 1830s, was a friend to the white man. Specifically, to the fur trappers who traded with the Yankton Sioux, Santee Sioux, Winnebago and other Native people at the confluence of the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers just outside Sioux City, in the northwest corner of what is now Iowa. But War Eagle’s hospitality and desire for peace eventually paved the way for white settlers to move in and push Native people out. Today, a monument to War Eagle, or Wambdi Okicize, stands on a bluff overlooking the Big Sioux River where the chief and his daughters were buried more than 150 years ago. It is a sacred place, locals say, from which one can see the expansive prairie that is South Dakota and Nebraska.