Marijuana enforcement in Des Moines is increased each year during the months of April through September by a police unit known as the Special Enforcement Team (SET).  The SET is made up of between 7 to 10 police officers who are specially assigned to the unit by the Chief of Police.  The SET has a flexible assignment to deploy in the areas of the city where the department believes a greater police presence is required.  The SET primarily patrols in the 50311, 50314, 50316 zip codes.

Our study on the Special Enforcement Team (SET) of the Des Moines Police Department is the latest report by the Racial Profiling Project, a project started in 2014. Over the course of the past seven years the project has involved many different people and organizations, all of which have arrived at the same conclusion:  Des Moines has a problem with racially biased policing.

We invite you to read the report and see what conclusions you draw.

A Study of the Des Moines Police Department’s Special Enforcement Team (SET) 2016 – 2020

To see detailed charts of SET activity each year, click on the links below:

Our analysis finds, in the five years that we have examined, the following facts:

  • The Des Moines Police Department, Special Enforcement Team, made 6,591 stops;
  • Those stops resulted in the collection of marijuana 308 times;
  • 21 of the stops resulted in marijuana being collected in an amount greater than 100 grams;
  • All of the other stops were for amounts less than 100 grams. 100 grams is one estimate of the dividing point between personal use and dealer amounts.

These are the statistics, expressed as percentages:

  • 4.7% of all stops (6,591) resulted in finding marijuana;
  • .03% of all stops (less than 1%) resulted in finding more than 100 grams of marijuana.
  • Blacks are 11% of the population of Des Moines, yet are 30% of those arrested for marijuana possession.

The ACLU, released a report in April 2020, that found:

  • Blacks in Iowa are 7.26 times more likely to be arrested for possession of Marijuana than Whites. This makes Iowa the 5th worst state in the United States for disproportionate arrests