116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Opinion / Staff Editorials
Unfortunate issues face Chief Jerman
The potential end of Wayne Jerman’s tenure as Cedar Rapids police chief has come under unfortunate circumstances.
In early March came the abrupt news that Jerman, who just turned 66, had aged out of his police certification. He received an inquiry email from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy informing him the maximum age limit for certified officers and asking whether he intended continue working as a civilian employee. \
Although two Iowa Code sections appear to give conflicting guidance on Jerman’s status, the ILEA is standing by its determination that Jerman’s certification has expired.
Jerman has made no public comment since the saga began. Legislation clarifying the rule has not made much progress in the Legislature.
City officials have been exploring the possibility of Jerman continuing to lead the department as a civilian.
But this week came the disclosure that unions representing Cedar Rapids law enforcement officers are opposed to the idea of putting a civilian in charge of the department. The objecting groups include the Fraternal Order of Police, the Cedar Rapids Police Bargaining Union and the Cedar Rapids Bars and Stripes Association. The groups are not taking issue with Jerman’s performance as chief, but two have objected to the precedent such a move might set.
“We appreciate a unique situation has arisen with Chief Jerman and his age,” wrote Mike Bailey, president of the Cedar Rapids Police Bargaining Union, according to reporting by The Gazette’s Marissa Payne. “However, this unique situation should not cause the City to abandon its commitment to having the police department led by a uniformed chief.”
Creating a public safety director would create challenges, as the fire department has its own leadership structure. While it's commendable to see someone want to lead past age 66, using city funds on a legal fight which could take years to resolve -- and features such unique circumstances -- doesn't make sense.
What makes this all unfortunate is the fact Jerman has provided solid leadership as police chief. He was visible and led with integrity. During protests in the spring and summer of 2020, sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, Jerman listened to demands for reform by Advocates of Social Justice. He supported the creation of a citizen review board and other reforms, although advocates insist much more change is needed.
But we don’t think it would be wise for the city to create an entirely new public safety director position simply to keep one good police chief. As the unions argue, it does raise questions about what happens after Jerman leaves the new position. Would civilian leadership continue? Such a change would bring Cedar Rapids back to the days when an elected public safety commissioner led the department under a commission form of government the city’s voters rejected.
We don’t know what Jerman’s plans are, and perhaps he can serve as an adviser role as the department transitions. And acting chief Tom Jonker is capably leading the department. But we think it’s in the community’s best interest to initiate a search for a new police chief.
As much as we dislike seeing Jerman’s tenure end like this, we believe it’s time to turn the page.
(319) 398-8262; email@example.com
Opinion content represents the viewpoint of the author or The Gazette editorial board. You can join the conversation by submitting a letter to the editor or guest column or by suggesting a topic for an editorial to firstname.lastname@example.org