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Legislative leadership and Governor Reynolds brought forward a bill to us during the last week of the legislative session in response to the murder of an unarmed African-American by a police officer in Minneapolis. This killing is an action that has been nearly universally condemned by law enforcement members and civilians alike as atrocious and unconscionable, as indeed it was. Our bill was supported by law enforcement groups and intended to hold bad actors in law enforcement, of which there are only a few, accountable. The bill was unanimously passed and signed by Governor Reynolds and these are its provisions:

  1. Prohibits the use of a chokehold, except in limited circumstances where death or serious injury is likely
  2. Prevents law enforcement officers who have been fired for serious misconduct from future employment as a law enforcement officer in Iowa.
  3. Allows the option of the Attorney General to investigate when someone is killed by a police officer and prosecute if a criminal act has been committed.
  4. Requires law enforcement to go through annual training regarding reduction of bias based on race and employment of de-escalation techniques.

Most if not all of these provisions are already in place in law enforcement agency policy, either officially or unofficially among those I contacted in my area.

All of us condemn racism. On that there is nearly universal agreement. I am concerned about the effects the violent protests and rioting and the feeble response by government officials in some places across the country are all having on our law enforcement officers. I and all the legislators I talked to want law enforcement, of all races, to know we strongly support them and to know we understand they are doing their best to protect and serve. And we are very thankful for the work they do!

Government’s first and most basic function is to protect and defend its people and their property. If all government services had to go, the last to go would be the law enforcement team. Without these brave men and women risking their lives to defend ours, we have no protection, no order, and anarchy would reign supreme. No one’s rights to life, liberty, and property would be protected and society would disintegrate. No business could afford to operate because no one would risk the chance of getting robbed or destroyed. So there would be no jobs, no production of good and services, no material needs being met. All would plunge into poverty. For those who think our government is bad, try no government.

It should go without saying, but due to recent events where the shocking and ludicrous battlecry came “defund the police”, I want people to know that no serious thought was given by anyone in the legislature that I am aware of that we should not fully fund our law enforcement operations. All I knew were wholeheartedly supportive of fully funding our state’s law enforcement operations. I can’t speak for cities or counties but am speaking of our legislature regarding our state’s law enforcement agencies, the Dept. of Public Safety, the Iowa State Highway Patrol, the Dept. of Criminal Investigations, etc.

We weren’t able to give the increase in funding we would have liked to in this budget due to the drop in projected tax revenue from the closure of so many businesses, but we specifically ensured that the Law Enforcement Academy would be able to hold another school in the coming fiscal year and graduate more officers for the State Highway Patrol.

The government can and should do the things it can to resist the effects of racism in our society. The bill we passed addresses that. But we must realize that the efforts of government are limited. The government cannot totally solve the issue of discrimination or racism as it is primarily an issue of the human heart. A heart issue is best addressed on an individual level, on a family level, and in the church. Government comes in a distant fourth in terms of effectiveness in addressing heart issues, as racism is. Government cannot bring the ultimate healing needed for the pain, betrayal, and rejection felt in the human heart because of racism, either as abusers or as abused. Racism is best addressed on an individual level with the help of one’s faith, family, minister, counselor, and friends.

I have always been a strong defender of constitutional rights, including the 1st Amendment right to peaceable assembly and free speech where peaceful demonstrations expressing a viewpoint occur. But those rights do not include violent tactics of rioting, looting, setting fires, and destroying others’ property and lives to get the point across. At that point it becomes coercive, hostile, tyrannical, and controlling, actions intended to bring others under domination and subjugation. No meaningful, productive exchange can then occur.

If the goal was to bring understanding as to the effects of racism on individuals, and to cultivate respect for others’ viewpoints, and to encourage others to listen with open hearts, the groups wreaking the havoc and destruction failed miserably. In fact they strengthened racial tensions and drove the divide in America even wider. In addition, they focused their efforts on the government, the institution way less effective in addressing racism as compared to individuals, family, and the church. Efforts so laser-focused on the government for answers are, for the most part, misguided and ineffective.

If the goal was to create further division, stoke racial hatred, unleash destruction and destabilization on American cities, and further weaken American governments’ ability to effectively govern (all the while using the respectable cry for an end to racism as a veneer), then they largely succeeded thus far. In fact, some governments’ inaction only emboldened those committing violence and further weakened their resolve to respond effectively. It makes one question the true goal of these groups….

I believe the true goal of these groups is the destruction of our beloved America. They offer nothing to replace our system but anarchy, followed by socialism and totalitarian tyranny and an equal sharing of poverty, misery, and destruction, as seen by nations that have adopted these systems both now and in the past.

Our system is not perfect but America offers the best system human beings can have no matter what their race: one where freedom is abundant, rights and liberties are protected, free enterprise offers economic opportunity, and government is limited by our Constitution. Why does everyone want to come to America? For these reasons. I’m thankful for America and am grateful to be an American, even with our faults and failures. I accept we’re not perfect but with God’s help we love America and we work to live up to the ideals of our Founders. As Americans this is our journey and what our history consists of. If America as we know it goes away, where will we go? There is nowhere to go. We need America and we must never let her go!

Update on Felon Voting Rights – One of Governor Reynolds’ top priorities has been the automatic restoration of voting rights for convicted felons once they have served their sentences. Since this measure did not pass the legislature, she has announced her intention to pass an executive order. Currently, felons must make application to the governor to have their voting rights restored. If the governor passes an executive order, not all convicted felons would automatically qualify. The legislature passed a separate bill which the governor signed, outlining which felons would qualify: a) Must complete their sentence, b) Must not have convictions under chapter 707 – Homicide and related crimes, Special Sentence crimes under chapter 903B – Rape and sex-related crimes, child endangerment resulting in a death, or 1st degree election misconduct, and c) Must have paid all restitution owed to a victim.

Author: Sandy Salmon