Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine retires

Missouri native led department through historic events, changes

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IOWA CITY — As he says goodbye to the department he’s led for nearly 11 years, retiring Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said he would put his officers up there with the best in the state.

During his time as chief — which began when he was hired by the city in August 2005 and ends on Thursday — the Iowa City Police Department has worked through a tornado, a historic flood, instituted a Crime Stoppers hotline, created Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender liaisons and had a 100 percent clearance rate on its homicide investigations. Yet, Hargadine is hesitant to take credit for any of his department’s accomplishments over the last decade.

“We have a lot of talent here,” said Hargadine, 57. “When you have talent, you get good ideas.”

Born in Columbia, Missouri, Hargadine served in the U.S. Army and did a one-year stint with the Jefferson City Police Department before being hired by the Columbia Police Department in February 1985. There, he climbed the ranks to captain and executive assistant to the chief, which exposed him to many of the duties and responsibilities of a police chief.

 

Hargadine said he had been looking for police chief jobs in Kansas, Illinois and Iowa before being hired by Iowa City.

“It was a good fit,” he said. “One of the reasons I was chosen was because of my experience in another college town.”

But while there are similarities between Columbia and Iowa City, Hargadine said there were some key differences, as well.

“We have multiple corridor partners here,” Hargadine said. “There isn’t anything that touches Columbia for 15 miles.”

The presence of other departments led to multiple opportunities for collaboration with other agencies such as the Johnson County Multi-Agency Drug Task Force, Metro Bomb Squad, the Citizens Police Academy and bigger projects, like the Joint Emergency Communication Center and the Iowa City Animal Shelter, which was rebuilt after the flood. Agencies like the Iowa City, Coralville, University of Iowa and North Liberty police departments and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office also collaborated on covering big events.

“(UI) football games and RAGBRAI, that’s when you find out who your friends are,” Hargadine said.

Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said Hargadine always valued those interagency partnerships.

“I think he right away reached out and wanted to make sure all of the agency heads had a good relationship,” Pulkrabek said. “He’s very big on joint cooperation between agencies.”

Pulkrabek describes Hargadine as a “regular, down to Earth guy,” who is easy to relate to and someone he often called on.

“He just came here with a lot of experience,” Pulkrabek said. “He was someone I would call for advice, draw from his many experiences.”

There were challenges for Hargadine along the way. The Iowa City Animal Shelter — which is under the police department — was taken out by the flood. Rebuilding took several years and buy-in from multiple agencies. Hargadine said he also received pushback from elected officials when he wanted to institute the Crime Stoppers tip line.

 

“It was not easy,” he said. “But, I think it’s been proven a success.”

The police department also had to respond to one of the biggest public safety shifts in city history, when alcohol-fueled crime forced the city council to enact a 21-only ordinance in 2010, forcing underage revelers out of the bar. Hargadine said many felt the downtown district was unsafe before the ordinance.

“There was a time senior citizens wouldn’t go downtown after 7 p.m.,” he said.

The ordinance was upheld in two elections, despite claims from the opposition that the ordinance would result in unregulated house parties in the near-downtown neighborhoods.

“(The police department), under Chief Hargadine’s Leadership, developed a plan to prevent that from happening; monitoring what was happening in the neighborhoods and being ready to respond if things got out of hand,” said former Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek, one of the driving forces behind the ordinance. “Downtown got safer and lots of other benefits occurred.”

Hayek said the police department also kept the public informed about arrest rates both downtown and in the residential areas following the ordinance.

“Chief Hargadine and his team helped us understand what was and was not happening both downtown and in the neighborhoods,” Hayak said.

Hargadine plans to take a month off before taking over as executive director of the Iowa Police Chiefs Association, an organization that seeks to promote professional standards throughout Iowa. In that role, he hopes to expand membership to include more county sheriffs and help organize the association’s three annual conferences.

Hargadine and his wife Annette plan to continue living in Iowa City.

Hargadine is being replaced for the next 90 days by interim Chief Troy Kelsay, the department’s captain of field operations. A national search for a permanent replacement is planned.

With his uniform already turned in and office mostly cleaned out, all that’s left for Hargadine is to say goodbye to the men and women he has worked with for more than a decade. He praised his entire staff — including civilian staff such as records keepers and his evidence custodian, Dave Harris — and said he was fortunate to inherit a good department. Hargadine said he believes his predecessor will inherit one, too.

“I think we’ve had a well-oiled machine for a long time,” he said.

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