Iowa DOT officers accused of overstepping authority

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 4/13/2009

Two Iowa DOT officers have been accused of over-aggressively investigating some vehicles following complaints by Iowa residents involved in two separate incidents.

Roger Chism, 65, a farmer from Cylinder, IA, was pulled over for a seat belt violation in September 2007 while driving his late 1970s grain truck to an ethanol plant.

Chism told Land Line the officer, DOT Officer Keith Truog, has been after him for years.

“It’s a case where an officer who has harassed us for three or four years didn’t want to leave us alone,” Chism said.

Truog allegedly detained Chism for about 90 minutes, Chism said the officer told him to get his truck out of the ethanol plant.

“He pulls the gun, says, ‘alright – you did it now.’ He grabbed me out of the truck while the gun was to my head, cuffed me and took me to jail.”

In November, Chism filed a civil lawsuit alleging that he was deprived of his constitutional rights, falsely arrested, arrested without probable cause, assaulted during the arrest and maliciously prosecuted by Truog. The suit seeks an unspecified monetary judgment for injuries and damages and punitive damages.

“In the deposition, he said if I had moved he would have shot me. I guess it was good I didn’t move,” Chism told Land Line.

Chism said that while he tried to comply with the officer’s demand to move the truck, Truog approached him and pulled a gun and pointed the gun at his head in order to remove him from the truck’s driver seat.

The officer charged Chism for felony assault on a police officer, but the state later dropped the charge.

Dena Gray-Fisher, a spokesman with the Iowa DOT, said she couldn’t discuss Chism’s lawsuit and that officers involved in investigations are prohibited from making comment.

The other case is being investigated after a driver filed a complaint with the Iowa DOT’s Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement.

Carl Schneider, 66, was ordered to pull his converted recreational vehicle over on March 27 while traveling on U.S. 61 in Lee County, IA, by state DOT Officer Darrell Weigand. Schneider told the Des Moines Register that he and his wife felt like they were treated like drug dealers even though they were never charged with a crime or written a warning.

In the officer’s report of the traffic stop, the officer stated he smelled an odor that reminded him of burning marijuana coming from the vehicle, which was outfitted to transport carnival equipment. Schneider consented to a search, and the officer found no drugs. The officer did find a rifle and two handguns, though some weapons weren’t in the locations where Schneider said they were. Schneider did have concealed weapons permits for the rifle and guns he carried.

Weigand said he told Schneider not to carry a concealed weapon into Missouri, saying, “You might not want to do that.”

Weigand then allowed the couple to leave.

Gray-Fisher said an investigation of the incident involving Weigand and Schneider is under way, but said the Iowa DOT would not make results of the investigation public.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer


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