Deputies of the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office released a statement last week claiming no confidence in County Attorney Jeff Renander, and calling for his resignation. All 13 deputies on the force signed the statement, referring to what they called “shocking examples” of Renander mishandling criminal cases and mistreating victims of sexual abuse, including children.
The county attorney is elected by voters, so the deputies’ vote of no confidence is not binding. Still, it stands as a powerful statement that brings much-needed attention to the abuse too often inflicted on victims by legal authorities. Police in Tipton, the county seat, this week reported Renander to the state judicial branch, which could lead to official discipline, KCRG reported.
The justice system has historically failed victims of sexual crimes. Many victims say officials who are supposed to help — police officers, social workers, lawyers, judges — don’t believe them when they report crimes, or attempt to shift blame to the victim.
Cases like those are not only gross miscarriages of justice, but also severely counterproductive to public safety. If victims distrust the system, they may be less likely to report crimes.
“The lack of professionalism and self-awareness exhibited by Cedar County Attorney Renander is not only shocking, but causes the victims of sexual abuse in Cedar County to be re-victimized, and could very well deter other victims from coming forward,” Cedar County sheriff’s deputies wrote last week.
This is the second time in recent history Cedar County — population 20,000, southeast of Cedar Rapids — has made news for disputes within the law enforcement community.
Last year, Sheriff Warren Wethington — who did not sign the recent statement against the county attorney, but told KCRG he supports his deputies’ decision — said his jail would not accept arrestees from the Durant Police Department because the sheriff objected to apparent misconduct from Durant officers. That earned Wethington praise from many criminal justice advocates.
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It still is far too rare to see law enforcement officials speak out against their own, but doing so is a crucial part to ensuring we have a fair justice system.
Misconduct in enforcement and prosecution should be especially infuriating to the fine professionals who are doing a good job. You can count members of the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office among them.
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