COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia. (KMTV) - The Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill with sweeping measures to protect law enforcement like strengthening qualified immunity, which would make it harder to sue officers for misconduct.
The bill also makes rioting a felony instead of a misdemeanor and strengthens the penalties for blocking streets and highways.
State Rep. Brent Siegrist says amid civil unrest, it's important to add a layer of safe-keeping for law enforcement.
"We wanted to make sure that law enforcement knows if you're trying to do your job and doing it in the proper manner, you will have protection from lawsuits that don't have any merit," Siegrist said.
ACLU of Iowa's Executive Director Mark Stringer says the bill provides new powers to police without accountability.
"When there have been so many high-profile shootings by police of Black people and other people of color, this is not the time for Iowans to have police have less accountability," Stringer said.
Stinger finds the bill concerning in multiple ways. He finds strengthening qualified immunity and stacking penalties on protesters problematic.
"If you are asked to pull over by a car that's not marked and you're not even sure there are officers driving it, that could be punishable for up to a year in prison," Stringer said.
Police Capt. Mike McKelvey is the President of the Iowa Peace Officers Association. His association is neutral on the bill. Still, there are items that law enforcement is rooting for.
"Qualified immunity language to keep that. There are also certain provisions in there. When you retire, using all earned sick leave time, they convert that and basically pay that for however many months worked of sick leave for medical premiums when you retire," McKelvey said.
He hopes the public keeps faith in his chosen profession.
"We're just asking for patience and understanding and again I think if people kind of slow down and act accordingly, hopefully there will be a better outcome for everybody," McKelvey said.
The bill now hits the Senate.