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Settlement veils police department accused of racial profiling

By Divina Mims, CNN
  • Under a settlement agreement, an Iowa town's police department will make changes
  • The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is not revealing the name of the department
  • An informal complaint alleges one officer routinely made traffic stops based on national origin

(CNN) -- A police department accused of racially profiling Latinos has reached a settlement with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. In exchange for agreeing to several policy changes, the identity of the police force is not being made public.

According to a news release issued Wednesday by the commission, the investigation stemmed from an informal complaint alleging an officer routinely made traffic stops based on the national origin of the registered owner or driver of a car.

According to the person who made the informal complaint, the officer's actions constituted a pattern of behavior that resulted in a disproportionately higher number of stops, citations, and arrests for Hispanics. The police department denied all allegations in the complaint.

The commission identifies the police department only as being located in a town with approximately 4,000 residents in an Iowa county with a high Latino population.

"The settlement reached by the parties ensures that there will be no racial profiling in this jurisdiction and the officers will receive training regarding racial profiling to help them avoid situations that cause the public to question their objectivity," said Beth Townsend, executive director of Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Under the settlement agreement, the police department will make changes to its current racial profiling policy, including providing information to the public in English and Spanish on the definition of racial profiling, how to file a complaint and the process by which the department responds to complaints. All officers will undergo additional training, and for two years officers will be required to keep records of their initial reasons for making each traffic stop.

In addition, the police chief must perform officer evaluations in which yearly statistics on arrests, citations and warnings will be under review.

Iowa's Latino population has recently grown rapidly. According to 2010 U.S. census data, Latinos make up 5.0 percent of Iowa's population, up 83.7 percent from 2000, and they have become critical to the state's agribusiness economy.

The Census Bureau defines "Hispanic or Latino" as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.