Public Safety

Iowa City police chief candidates tout commitment to building community

The Iowa City Police Department logo is shown on a squad car in Iowa City on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Ga
The Iowa City Police Department logo is shown on a squad car in Iowa City on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Iowa City’s three police chief candidates acknowledged Monday night that they were vying for a job that will see challenges and change in the coming months and years.

“In the times of considerable police change, it’s very important to understand and recognize that the way we’re doing business is not necessarily the way society is wanting us to do business,” said Oelwein Police Chief Jeremy Logan, one of the candidates. “If we’re not looking to improve, then we’re standing still and falling behind.”

The public had a chance to meet the candidates face to face — or rather, mask to mask — at an outdoor socially distanced meet-and-greet put on by the city. City Manager Geoff Fruin, who will select a finalist to submit to the City Council and the city’s Civil Service Commission for approval, said it was vital the public gets a chance to meet and question the candidates.

Whoever is selected for the chief position will enter the role knowing the job — and the police department itself — could see considerable change. In response to demands from the community and Black Lives Matter movement protesters, the City Council has vowed to restructure the police department in order to align it with the community’s values. Council members have said they want a chief who will see that process as an opportunity.

Appearing with Logan at Mercer Park on a muggy night were Cmdr. Jason Lando of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and Lt. Dustin Liston of the El Paso (Texas) Police Department.

The three men were selected as finalists out of 18 candidates who applied for the position following Iowa City Police Chief Jody Matherly’s retirement in February.

The candidates spoke at a microphone for five to 10 minutes before mingling with the crowd of roughly 40 people. Attendees were separated in circles painted in the grass.

All three men touted their efforts in building relationships between the law enforcement and the community.

Lando, who has served in Pittsburgh since 2000, noted that he served for five years in a precinct that previously had been known for negative interactions between police and the public. Under his leadership, Lando said, citizen complaints and crime in most categories fell in that precinct. Their efforts were recognized locally and nationally, he said.

“The culture between the police and the community changed significantly,” he said.

Liston, an Eldora native, University of Iowa graduate and former Iowa City police intern, touted his connection to the community. He pointed to the nearby Mercer Aquatic Center and noted he once taught swimming lessons there. He said Iowa City is the only place outside of El Paso he was seeking to work.

“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. “A lot of people feel like they no longer have a voice in what law enforcement does. And without legitimacy, we cannot do our job.”

Logan, who has served as Oelwein’s police chief for 18 years, noted he served as president of the Iowa Police Chief Association for seven years and his work has been recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Most importantly, he said, in June he was named co-chair of the Law Enforcement Vision for Equality Task Force, a partnership between the Iowa Police Chiefs Association and NAACP charged with bridging gaps between minority communities and law enforcement and creating guidelines for police reform in Iowa.

Oelwein also was the first police department in Iowa to use body cameras, an effort launched in 2006.

“The reason for that was to build that transparency and trust,” he said.

Fruin has said he hopes to submit his selection for chief to the City Council and Civil Service Commission by late August or September.

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

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