Public Safety

Iowa City manager recommends El Paso officer as city's next police chief, emphasizing 'period of change'

Lt. Dustin Liston, of the El Paso (Texas) Police Department, speaks during an Aug. 24 meet-and-greet event for the three
Lt. Dustin Liston, of the El Paso (Texas) Police Department, speaks during an Aug. 24 meet-and-greet event for the three finalists for the Iowa City police chief’s job. Iowa City Manager Geoff Fruin is recommending Liston behired as the city’s next police chief. (Nick Rohlman/Freelance)
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IOWA CITY — An officer who once interned with the Iowa City Police Department could soon lead it.

In a letter to the Iowa City Council and Civil Service Commission,

Iowa City Manager Geoff Fruin is recommending the city hire Lt. Dustin Liston, currently with the El Paso (Texas) Police Department, to lead the department through what will likely be a period of change.

“Throughout the selection process, Mr. Liston exhibited a strong understanding of the type of leader we need here in Iowa City,” Fruin wrote in a letter to the Iowa City Council and the Civil Service Commission.

“He understands that his role will be to lead this department as it accelerates its path toward a more robust community policing model, one that acknowledges the importance of equity and incorporates new approaches to long-term issues.”

Whoever is selected as Iowa City’s next police chief will be asked to lead the department through a period of change. The Iowa City Council, responding to demands from Black Lives Matter movement protesters, has vowed to restructure the department.

“He is prepared to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones in a meaningful manner that will create new and collaborative community problem-solving efforts,” Fruin wrote. “Mr. Liston values transparency and will be a solid partner to the Community Police Review Board, Human Rights Commission and other boards and commissions that are eager to work together to bridge gaps between community and police in a positive, respectful manner.”

Liston, an Eldora native, was one of 18 applicants for the chief’s job following the retirement of former Chief Jody Matherly in February.

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Fruin winnowed that list to nine, who were interviewed by a 15-member committee, including representatives from the police department, Iowa City Pride, the NAACP, the Community Police Review Board and the ACLU Hawkeye Chapter.

The committee provided feedback, and Fruin selected the three finalists — Liston, Commander Jason Lando of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and Oelwein Police Chief Jeremy Logan — to visit Iowa City last month.

The finalists spoke with community members at a socially distanced, outdoor meet-and-greet and toured the community and police station. A final interview also took place.

In his letter, Fruin touted Liston’s ability to collaborate with a diverse population in a college town. El Paso is home to more than 680,000 residents, more than 80 percent of whom identify as Hispanic. It is also home to the University of Texas El Paso, which has more than 25,000 students.

“His experience serving a diverse community with a large higher education institution is also an invaluable asset to our community,” Fruin wrote.

Liston graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in psychology and sociology. During the community meet-and-greet, Liston said he had interned with the Iowa City Police Department and taught swimming lessons at the Mercer Aquatic Center.

“I’m ready to work for the community, and I think that’s the most important thing we can do in today’s society,” Liston said at the meeting. “A lot of people feel they no longer have a voice in what law enforcement does. And without legitimacy, we cannot do our job.”

Liston has been with El Paso Police Department 22 years, where he is now director of the El Paso Fusion Center, a regional multiagency intelligence hub.

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Fruin also touted the “leadership and communication skills” Liston showed during the Aug. 3, 2019, active shooter incident at a Walmart in the El Paso area, during which 23 people were killed.

Liston also has experience with community policing programs, including El Paso’s Crisis Intervention Team civilian co-responder program, Fruin said.

Fruin’s selection is subject to approval from both the Civil Service Commission, which next meets Sept. 24, and the Iowa City Council.

Fruin is asking that Liston be appointed effective Jan. 11. Chief Matherly earned $166,212.80 at the time of his retirement.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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