The Des Moines Police Department saw a significant uptick in their use of force from 2015 to 2019, according to an analysis released by the city.
The overall use of force employed by DMPD more than doubled from 2015 to 2019, with a significant jump occurring between the years 2017 and 2018, when incidents rose by 40%. There were approximately 433 incidents in 2018 and 432 in 2019, compared to 193 in 2015, 258 in 2016 and 309 in 2017 (the totals were very slightly different depending on which graph you go off of in the document).
Use of force against Black people was far higher than the percentage of Black residents in Des Moines. Of the total use of force incidents from 2015 to 2019, 38% of the citizens involved were Black, 51% were white, and 7% were Hispanic. The city of Des Moines itself is about 11% Black.
The data, obtained by Iowa Starting Line today via an open records request, was first requested by Councilmember Josh Mandelbaum several months ago and recently provided by City Manager Scott Sanders to the council, though never presented.
Discussion about obtaining the report was originally slated for Monday’s three-hour city council meeting, but the agenda item was withdrawn by Mandelbaum, who noted that the report had been provided.
Most of the incidents occurred between midnight and 2 a.m. on the weekends to males aged 20-29. Handcuffing proved to be the most common type of encounter that led to use of force by DMPD, 195 times in 2019, followed by general duty and dispatch encounters. Off-duty use of force also sometimes occured — in 2017 there were 17 incidents, in 2018 there were 11 and in 2019, 31 off-duty use of force encounters took place within DMPD.
Interference was cited as the most common reason for force, though “resisting arrest” dramatically increased as the reason between 2016 and 2017. That was listed as the cause for 6 uses of force in 2016, compared to 66 in 2017, rising to 114 in 2019. A “failure to comply” reason also increased steadily. Assaults on police officers as a cause for use of force remained relatively steady throughout the five years, dropping lower in 2017 and 2019.
The type of force most used by DMPD is “take to the ground” — in 2018 there were 211 counts of this type and in 2019, 208 instances occurred compared to the next most common practice, handcuffing, used 130 times in 2019 and 122 times in 2018. Pepper spray was employed 52 times in 2018 and 49 times in 2019.
Holds proved to be second-most common use of force with over 96 instances in 2018 and 113 in 2019.
In 2019 victims of force were injured most often, though most of those incidents did not result in hospitalization. In 2018, most instances of force did not result in injury or hospitalization. In the vast majority of cases, the DMPD employee was not injured in a use of force incident, though those incidents more than doubled in 2018 and 2019 over previous years.
by Isabella Murray
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