Oklahoma lawmakers think they can learn from Iowa when it comes to statewide police reforms.
Within a month of George Floyd’s death on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police, the Hawkeye State banned police choke holds, affirmed the attorney general’s investigative powers and came up with a system so officers can’t shake misconduct by going to another department.
At an Oklahoma interim study on Thursday, Iowa Republican State Rep. Matt Windschitl said there was broad agreement among the state's legislators they had to do something to respond to protests.
"This wasn’t just about a 'police reform,' this was justice reform. And that’s what we wanted to make sure we got to the meat and potatoes of was getting to that point where we were not having injustices occur that were not being addressed," Windschitl said.
Iowa First Assistant Attorney General Kevin McCarthy said reforms were easier to pass in June because the state has taken incremental steps, starting in 2015 with policies to lower its prison population and more recently in 2019 trying to lessen penalties for marijuana possession.
But he said instituting police reforms and other changes haven’t been the most transparent processes.
"To be frank with you, a lot of the groups that might be involved in these negotiations are not reasonable. They’re not political – and I don’t mean partisan politics, I’m talking about understanding what’s doable in the context of a legislature," McCarthy said. "And so, we’ve done a lot of this work – really, a lot of this work – behind the scenes. And then people feel comfortable and they trust each other when they move it forward."
Iowa is one of just a few states to pass policing reforms since May 25. Oklahoma is among the majority of states not to pursue them.