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Could Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman serve as civilian police department head?
Jerman on paid administrative leave while city assesses certification status after 66th birthday
CEDAR RAPIDS — Three days after Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman turned 66 years old on March 4, Iowa Law Enforcement Academy staff emailed Jerman about reaching the maximum age for officers and asked whether he would continue working as a civilian employee.
The email — which The Gazette received through a public records request — came two days before City Manager Jeff Pomeranz told the police department that city officials were assessing Jerman’s certification status since he had reached age 66, when peace officer certifications expire under Iowa Code.
Jill Polich — the records clerk of ILEA, which handles law enforcement certifications — emailed Jerman at 12:01 p.m. March 7 to inquire about a change in his status:
“I am reaching out in regards to the maximum age limit for certified peace officers as outlined in Iowa Code 400.17,” Polich wrote. “Our records indicate that you have reached the age of 66. Will you be staying on as a civilian employee?”
Asked if Jerman responded to clarify whether he planned to stay on as a civilian employee, academy Director Brady Carney said “ILEA cannot discuss whether or not we've had discussions about a particular certification” under Iowa Code.
A statement from the city manager’s office said Jerman remains a city employee on paid administrative leave while the city “assesses a confidential personnel matter.” His title remains police chief.
Jerman has not responded to requests for comment. It is not clear when or if Jerman had notified ILEA of his status change.
Pomeranz’s March 9 email to the police department stated it was the ILEA’s position that all peace officer certifications expire when the officer turns 66, regardless of position. In the meantime, deputy chief Tom Jonker was tapped to serve as acting chief March 9 and will serve until this matter is resolved, according to the city manager’s office.
City officials indicated they are weighing the impacts of Jerman staying on as a civilian head of the police department. The city manager’s office responded the city is aware of the ILEA email, but said it could not share further details regarding this “confidential personnel matter.”
But the city manager’s office said the city performed an informal survey of other communities and provided a table labeled “Iowa Comparison Between Various Police Chief Positions and Public Safety Director Positions.” It assesses the differences in police chiefs certified by ILEA compared with a public safety director.
According to the comparison table, the certified police chief:
- Directs operations of all divisions of the police department.
- Enforces laws and ordinances while directing long- and short-term plans of a police department.
- Wears a uniform and carries equipment required for law enforcement duties (firearm, bulletproof vest, taser, baton, handcuffs).
- Uses an unmarked patrol vehicle.
- Reviews all law enforcement data and documents to make decisions and direct operations of the department.
- Is certified by the National Crime Information Center, a computerized index of criminal justice information including information on criminal records, fugitives, stolen properties, missing people, etc.
A public safety director, on the other hand:
- Directs the operations of all divisions, which could include fire or EMS.
- Cannot enforce any laws or ordinances.
- Attends work in business casual clothing and does not carry any equipment related to law enforcement.
- Drives a personal vehicle or vehicle issued without law enforcement equipment.
- May or may not have the ability to review certain documents the police department receives from various agency partners which are for law enforcement use only.
- May not have reason to obtain certification. Would need to provide a reason to justify certification to the National Crime Information Center.
Both positions may participate as a law enforcement officer at community events such as neighborhood meetings, city council meetings and protests, according to the comparison table.
Carney said “local forms of government are outside of ILEA's statutory purview” when asked if a non-certified officer could lead a police department. That suggests it would be up to city leaders to decide whether or not to employ a non-certified head of the police department.
It’s unknown whether other paths, if any, are being pursued.
According to the city, it would take a city code change to employ a civilian police chief. The city did not identify which sections of code would need to change.
For example, under city code, section 7.04 outlining the police chief’s duties says “it shall be the duty of the chief of police to cause the public peace to be preserved and enforce all the laws and ordinances of the city of which the Police Department must take cognizance.” The comparison table shows the city’s understanding is a non-certified head of the department could not enforce city laws and ordinances.
City code does not explicitly require the police chief to be a certified officer, nor does it address age limits for the head of the police department.
Nevada police chief over age 65
In the central Iowa city of Nevada — which has a population of nearly 7,000, according to 2020 census data — 67-year-old Ricardo Martinez II serves as the city’s public safety director and police chief though he is no longer a certified police officer.
Martinez’s case shows officers can serve in a civilian capacity past age 65, though their certification status changes. He is retiring this year, and the city’s job description for Martinez’s replacement shows officials are seeking a replacement with ILEA certification.
Martinez, who also serves on the ILEA academy council, said after consulting the Nevada city administrator and others, city leaders were comfortable with him remaining in his position as a non-certified police chief when he turned 66 last February.
“For all practical purposes and day-to day work that I do, when I was certified and what I do now is the same thing,” Martinez said. “I run the department, so that did not change at all.”
Being a non-certified officer means he can’t make arrests, pull people over, issue traffic tickets, or sign affidavits and complaints — things that a sergeant or patrol officer might do when interacting with the public, Martinez said.
“Being 67, I'm not going to go to somebody's house and end up having to arrest somebody and wrestle them,” Martinez said. “I’m too old for that sort of thing. But I am old enough and smart enough to run my department because I've been doing it since 2011.”
Besides, Martinez said he has not done any of those activities since approximately 2015, as his responsibility is to run the police department. The department is made up of 11 sworn officers and three part-time officers. The Nevada Fire Department, which Martinez also oversees as director of public safety, is a volunteer department.
For comparison, the Cedar Rapids Police Department has 212 officers and more than 60 non-sworn employees, according to the city website. In Cedar Rapids, Greg Smith serves as fire chief overseeing paid staff. The city’s population is about 138,000.
Jerman could serve as a civilian employee, Martinez said, though he also would be barred from the same tasks Martinez can no longer do such as making arrests.
“That's what I'm doing,” Martinez said of serving as a civilian police chief. “So he would be no different than what I have here. Of course, Cedar Rapids is a bigger city and the demands are a little different, but I can tell you that his day-to-day responsibilities are really not going to change whether he's certified or not. He runs the agency. That's what his responsibility is. And so if he remains in his position, that's what he's going to be able to do.”
Martinez said he, as police chief, is required to let ILEA know if there’s a change in an officer’s status — whether they are promoted, become non-certified, quit, or move to another department. Normally, he said there’s a form that chiefs fill out and send to ILEA.
Leonard Matarese, research director and managing partner at the Center for Public Safety Management, said in Florida and New York, police department heads do not have to be certified.
Asked about the precedent it would set for a non-certified officer to serve as chief, Matarese said he didn’t imagine city officials would ever hire someone without law enforcement experience.
Even if Jerman does not have the powers of a certified chief, Matarese said he doesn’t see why Jerman would need to be a sworn officer if he has over three decades of experience in law enforcement under his belt. Jerman has served as police chief since 2012.
“If they think he’s a good manager and he’s managed the department well and he wants to do this, I can’t imagine any reason” not to keep him on, Matarese said.
Is Iowa Code change needed?
Officials have expressed some confusion, though, over conflicting language under state law and whether a legislative fix is needed to employ Jerman as the leader of the department past age 65 — though Martinez’s case shows that’s allowable under state law.
Iowa Code 362.10 states that “the maximum age for a police officer, marshal, or firefighter employed for police duty or the duty of fighting fires is 65 years of age.” It does not explicitly mention police or fire chiefs.
City officials have pointed to Iowa Code Chapter 400, in which the age limit is reiterated in 400.17. Chapter 400.6 states department heads — like police chiefs — are exceptions to the rules outlined in Chapter 400.
A bill in the Iowa Legislature, Senate File 183, would adjust the wording of Iowa Code section 362.10 to clarify that the age maximum applies to both part-time and full-time police officers and firefighters. This proposal, which advanced out of subcommittee Monday, doesn’t say anything specifically regarding chiefs and other department heads.
Larry Murphy, lobbyist for the Iowa Police Chiefs Association, in the Monday subcommittee meeting said he believes the bill as drafted creates “unintended consequences.” Murphy said it’s not clear whether police chiefs or fire chiefs are covered or not.
“I think there’s a question there, and I think it probably needs to be addressed somehow,” Murphy said.
Rep. Bill Gustoff, R-Des Moines, said his understanding was that police and fire chiefs are already subject to age 65 maximum, so this bill only changes it for reserve officers. If Cedar Rapids officials are worried whether Jerman has aged out of the position, Gustoff said the issue is with existing Iowa Code.
Gary Grant, a lobbyist for the city of Cedar Rapids, echoed concerns of the Iowa Police Chiefs Association and supported lawmakers going into Chapter 362.10 and Chapter 400 to address police and fire chief ages.
“When you have police chiefs and fire chiefs, they’re largely administrative roles,” Grant said. “Police chiefs aren’t kicking down doors and fire chiefs aren’t running into burning buildings. I think maybe looking at kind of eliminating some of those age requirements might be in order.”
But Rep. Sami Scheetz, D-Cedar Rapids, who sits on the House public safety committee, said in a statement Friday that his understanding is no legislative fix is needed to keep Jerman in his role as police chief.
Police Chief vs. Public Safety Director Comparison Table by Gazetteonline on Scribd
Tom Barton contributed to this article
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