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Black lawmakers call for including anti-racial profiling in ‘Back the Blue’ bill

DES MOINES — The Iowa Legislative Black Caucus is calling on Republican Governor Kim Reynolds to intervene on so-called “back the blue” legislation.

In January, Reynolds proposed a package that included enhanced penalties for those who riot and who harass and attack police as well as provisions to address racial profiling by police. Representative Ras Smith, a Democrat from Waterloo, said the Republican majority in the legislature is leaving a key part out.

“This legislation should not pass without including anti-racial profiling language,” Smith said. “It should not pass without implicit bias training being part of this ‘Back the Blue’ package.”

Smith said the GOP controlled legislature appears to be “taking Iowa backwards” after the progress of last spring, when a police reform package that passed unanimously last June.

“I believe that the governor and members of the Iowa Republican Party are actively trying to further divide our state,” Smith said.

Smith cited bills to prohibit the teaching of a New York Times project on slavery in Iowa public schools and to get rid of voluntary diversity plans in five Iowa school districts.

“Now that Black History Month as ended, we as Iowans must stay focused on the climb for justice,” Smith said. “Now is the time to build a legacy of fairness and equity that will strengthen Iowa for generations to come.”

Four other black members of the Iowa House joined Smith for an online news conference Thursday. All five are Democrats. A spokesman for the governor has not responded to a request for comment.

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