There’s a quiz today. How would the tragic death of George Floyd have been perceived if the encounter occurred on a deserted side street in the middle of the night, rather than on a busy street in a business area in broad daylight? How would our understanding of the events have been different if there were no citizens around to record the scene on their cell phones and the only descriptions were the ones police officers provided? What if the only visual record was on the body cameras worn by the officers? The cell phone video is uncomfortable to watch.
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.
Sunshine Week will be observed across the nation next week. In Iowa, the sunshine next week will be obscured by clouds — at least when it comes to citizen access to videos recorded by law officers on their squad car cameras and body cameras during incidents in which police shoot someone or when officers are fired upon.
President Barack Obama’s recent executive orders on gun access and control reignited debates over how to rein in gun violence. There’s a perception that gun violence in Iowa is worse than ever. The number of shootings in Iowa’s major cities is increasing, but law enforcement says it’s due to a small number of people.
Iowa legislators are taking another look at legislation to prohibit cellphone use while driving, in an effort to give more teeth to the current texting law. Last year, legislation that proposed making texting while driving a primary offense, meaning law enforcement officials could pull drivers over for texting alone, died in the Iowa House. Test your knowledge on the current texting law and the bill proposed by the Iowa Department of Public Safety.