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One Arrested As Des Moines Council Shows Support For Police Chief And City Manager

City Hall in downtown Des Moines
Grant Gerlock
IPR file
A resolution passed Monday night states that the Des Moines City Council supports the city manager and police chief's work on racial equity, and "rejects any and all demands that either should be fired."

According to a resolution passed Monday night, the Des Moines City Council is happy with ongoing efforts to eliminate racial bias in city services and law enforcement. The measure was passed as a vote of confidence for City Manager Scott Sanders and Police Chief Dana Wingert.

For months, social justice demonstrators have called for Wingert and Sanders to be fired over what they consider a lack of progress in addressing racial inequality.

The resolution refers to Sanders and Wingert’s critics as “a vocal but small group,” and states that the council not only has no intention of firing Sanders or Wingert but also “has confidence in both the Manager and the Chief and directs each to continue their efforts to improve equitable service delivery.”

Council member Joe Gatto, who represents Ward 4 in the southeastern quarter of the Des Moines, said the council should stand behind the city's work on the issue.

“I think it’s high time in the Des Moines Police Department and others — zoning officers and everyone else that works for the city — it’s high time that we step up as a council and be supportive of what they’re trying to do,” Gatto said.

The resolution points to equity programs and police training as signs of progress, but demonstrators at the meeting called for more attention to issues such as racial profiling, marijuana enforcement, accessibility and homeless services.

“It’s not always pretty when you complain, but it’s also not pretty when you’re not heard,” said Laural Clinton, who is part of the racial justice team with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

As the meeting started, Mayor Frank Cownie warned the limited number of people allowed in the council chamber that they would be removed from the room if they attempted to interrupt the meeting.

Several people were later removed as they shouted over the council, opposing a contract for police de-escalation training. One man was arrested. Video from KCCI reporter Chris Gothner shows he was taken into custody after blocking a door and arguing with an officer about being let back into the meeting.

The council approved a $148,000 contract with the Police Executive Research Forum to provide de-escalation training for city police officers.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa