Reynolds’ ‘Back the Blue’ bill already faces opposition from Black Lives Matter

Several Iowa police organizations are opposing Gov. Kim Reynolds' proposed bill to increase penalties for rioters and those who attack the police. (Photo courtesy of Des Moines Police Department)

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposed bill to increase penalties for those who attack the police has yet to be introduced at the Statehouse, but it’s already facing strong opposition from Des Moines leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In her Condition of the State address, Reynolds said cities such as Minneapolis, Portland and New York have “embraced the attacks on law enforcement, and now their violent crime rates are rising for the first time in a generation. That’s not going to happen in Iowa; not on my watch.”

Reynolds said she’ll be introducing a bill that “protects law enforcement” and makes clear that “if you riot or attack our men and women in uniform, you will be punished.”

The bill has yet to be filed, but the governor’s official website says her “Back the Blue Act” will include these elements:

  • An explicit assertion of the rights of police officers to “pursue civil remedies” against a person that injures them for representing law enforcement, or files a false complaint against them.
  • Enhanced penalties for the harassment or assault of police officers.
  • Increased penalties for “riotous behavior.”
  • A denial of state funding for local governments that reduce their budgets for law enforcement.

“There will be no talk of defunding the police here,” Reynolds said. “Our men and women in blue will always have my respect, and I will always have their back.”

Jaylen Cavil of Black Lives Matter said Thursday that Reynolds’ proposal is clearly aimed at the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement and other Black liberation organizers and activists.

Her said the proposed language in the bill is “abhorrent” and runs counter to everything last year’s More Perfect Union Act attempted to accomplish.

The 2020 legislation was promoted as police-reform legislation aimed at preventing violence between police and communities of color. It banned law enforcement from using chokeholds, except to prevent deadly force, and strengthens requirements for training related to bias and de-escalation techniques. It also prohibits law enforcement agencies from hiring officers fired for serious misconduct.

Cavil said the new legislation is “offensive,” and would effectively “stop people from making complaints against police officers because police officers would now be able retaliate against them if this were passed.”

As for the reducing state aid for cities that cut municipal funding for police, Cavil said that “goes against everything conservatives say they believe in, which is local control. I think it’s illegal. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. And I view it as an attack against us, against all Black people in the state of Iowa.”

Although Reynolds said the new bill will also include provisions to strengthen existing prohibitions on racial profiling, Cavil said his organization intends to “oppose this every step of the way.”

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.