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2 black men sue Des Moines police, alleging racial profiling

DES MOINES, Iowa – Two young black men filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that they were racially profiled by two white Des Moines police officers who pulled over their car for no apparent reason and cuffed one of them during the search of the vehicle without a warrant or probable cause.

The stop and search were captured on patrol car and body camera video that has been viewed more than 9 million times since released a public advocacy group on Aug. 15 and posted online. It shows Officer Kyle Thies take an aggressive tone from the start, telling the driver, a 23-year-old Montray Little, to get out of the car or he would go to jail and then handcuffing him even though Little was fully cooperating.

If Thies are looking for in the car, Director Natalie Heinemann ask 21-year-old passenger, Jared Clinton. The search found nothing, and the men were eventually allowed to drive.

Clinton’s mother, Laural Clinton, said that she cried when she saw the video. She said that she has learned from her sons to empty their hands and comply with the police orders.

“I thank God, my son listened. He was home that night, but I just really feel that they’re trying to lure him in a negative way that might be in danger of his life,” she said.

Small and Clinton’s lawyer, Gina Messamer, said Friday that she is suing the police and the city of Des Moines, which is already facing several lawsuits alleging constitutional violations against civilians, including a number of cases in which officials acted violently, but were allowed to remain in the force.

The lawsuit, which names Thies, Heinemann, police chief Dana Wingert and the city, claiming that the plaintiffs’ civil rights were violated, that they were illegally searched and that the police engaged in illegal racial profiling.

They took Wingert and the city “to check and address racially-disproportionate measures taken by the City of Des Moines police officers and “not to adopt a system to identify, track and monitor problematic police behavior and the patterns of unconstitutional conduct.”

Bridget Fagan-Reidburn, an organizer with the group that the videos, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said the police records indicate that Thies arrested 236 people last year. They said that 49 percent of the people he arrested were black, in a city where blacks make up slightly more than 10 percent of the population.

“We can’t let this style of the police continue,” said Fagan-Reidburn, whose group focuses on civil rights, immigration and the environment. “We need a regulation that builds relationships with our communities, not tears them apart.”

Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek said the department is conducting an administrative review of the attack, and others by Thies to see whether the claims of racial profiling have been established.

“It is a serious accusation, and it is something we seek,” Parizek said. “You can’t tell by looking at a video that the racial profiling. There are a lot of different things going on.”

He said that the police have received 34 complaints from the neighborhood about the activities in the park, that Small and Clinton were abandoned when the agents stopped them, and that the agents “do not select that car, because of the residents.”

Des Moines city Councilman Josh Mandelbaum said the videos are difficult, but that he would not discuss them further, until the police department reports about the internal investigation.

“I think we need to take citizen concerns seriously, and we need to constantly work on improving in what we do in the city,” he said.

Des Moines police are already dealing with several lawsuits over the way the officers treated citizens.

A man in 2013 ended up with a broken teeth and injuries to his face, back, ribs, legs, and testicles in the hands of the off-duty officers including Greg Wessels who is reprimanded and suspended several times for inappropriate behavior, court documents show.

A federal court trial is scheduled for November.

In a separate case, Charles Edward Young, a black-and 63-year-old Army veteran, suffered broken ribs after officer Cody Grimes attacked him in a 2016 incident in his apartment, after he had called police for help evicting unwanted guests.

Grimes was fired in 2014 after he choked his girlfriend and threw her down a flight of stairs and was charged with domestic violence. However, he was reinstated in 2015 after a civil service commission concluded that the firing was too severe a penalty.

A federal civil trial for his attack on the Young is set to start in December.

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Follow David Pitt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/davepitt

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