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Racial justice activists push for police accountability after releasing arrest video

Veola Perry believes an arrest video from September shows racial bias within the Des Moines Police Department. “Black men are not protected from being profiled and brutalized by some officers in our city,” said Perry, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.
Grant Gerlock
/
IPR
Veola Perry believes an arrest video from September shows racial bias within the Des Moines Police Department. “Black men are not protected from being profiled and brutalized by some officers in our city,” said Perry, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Racial justice activists are accusing a Des Moines police officer of using excessive force after sharing the video of an arrest that took place last September.

The incident occurred outside a Quik Trip gas station at 6th and University in Des Moines. Footage shared by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement shows Officer Joshua Button, who is white, confronting Lentern Woods, who is Black and was known to have schizophrenia.

Button tells Woods to put his arms behind his back but Woods turns and walks away.

Dash camera video then shows Button catching up to Woods and pulling him down hard to the ground where he punches and hits Woods before putting him in hand cuffs.

Veola Perry, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement’s racial justice team said Woods made no move that justified such force.

“We once again have witnessed the excessive force of the Des Moines Police Department, and a blatant disrespect of our Black and brown citizens,” Perry said. “Our city leaders cannot and should not continue to ignore the inappropriate and inexcusable behaviors of our police. It is time for police reform.”

Later in the video, Button claims he grabbed Woods to stop him from walking into the street. He then tackled and attempted to restrain Woods because he turned around “in an aggressive manner,” according to the department.

Button stated in a police report that he initially stopped his patrol car because he had seen Woods screaming and punching at people in the area.

The accusation against Officer Button follows another recent accusation of excessive force stemming from a video showing a DMPD officer pushing a man to the ground in the hours following a protest in the summer of 2020.

Iowa CCI is calling for a third party investigation into DMPD conduct, the creation of a citizen review board to examine complaints and for Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert to lose his job.

“We have repeatedly said police cannot police themselves,” said Iowa CCI member Chris Robinson. “Without community oversight, behaviors like this will just continue on with no accountability.”

According to the DMPD, the incident was fully investigated and Button’s use of force was found to be appropriate.

“It is never our goal to have a physical confrontation with an individual, however, in this instance Officer Button had no choice but to intervene with Mr. Woods for the safety of Mr. Woods and the public,” Wingert said in a statement. “Ignoring his behavior and the inherent associated risks was not an option. We have a duty to intervene.”

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa