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Iowa's University Heights approves the first state ban on profiling by the police

The City Council of University Heights took an historic step on Tuesday evening after it voted unanimously to approve the ban on racial profiling and other forms of profiling in the police department

The ordinance, the first of its kind in Iowa, requires implicit and explicit bias training for officers, provides funds for data collection software and creates an advisory board to review complaints.


"I think this is a big deal for the state of Iowa, not just for University Heights," said Kevin Sanders, president of the NAACP section of Iowa City. "The city council and the police department have set a great precedent for the rest of the state, and all of you should be congratulated for their efforts"

READ : University Heights could be the first in Iowa to declare profiling illegal

City Councilor , Silvia Quezada, thanked the members of the University Heights community, the city council, the chief of police and organizations such as the NAACP for their contributions in drafting the ordinance.

Quezada said he began communicating with different agencies last summer, after considering an investigation by The Gazette about University Heights' "extraordinarily high rate" of writing tickets for speeding.

The information in a confidential file, he said, also provided a rationale for pursuing an ordinance prohibiting racial discrimination and all forms of profiling in the police department

Quezada, Councilman Nick Herbold and Police Chief Nate Petersen said there are currently no cases in which the city investigates the profiles, adding that the officials wanted to be at the forefront when approving the ordinance.

In addition to making profiling illegal , the measure provides funds for new software in the police department, which costs $ 1,800. The city also set aside $ 5,000 for Christopher Barnum, professor of criminal justice at St. Ambrose University, to help the department administer the data.

With the ordinance passed, the University Heights department will begin using the software to record and file police reports used by the Iowa City Police Department, according to Petersen.

Barnum conducted an investigation into the disproportionate contact with the minority of the Iowa City Police Department and discovered that, on average, an Iowa City police officer had double of probabilities of stopping a "minority driver" over other drivers in 2016.

That year, the rate of disproportionate arrests and detentions had a downward trend. In 2017, according to his report, the disproportionate arrests rate increased.

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Petersen said it will take at least a year of data collection before University Heights, which has a population of approximately 1,070 and is approximately 90 percent white, will have enough information to do evaluations.

"There is a lot of work to be done," Sanders said. "But we are taking a step to move in the right direction."

Reach Hillary Ojeda at 319-339-7345, or follow her on Twitter at @hillarymojeda.

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